I love this time of year. The leaves have turned beautiful shades of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples. Smells of sophisticated spices fill the air. Dreams of pumpkin-flavored everything swirl about, and menus are being planned for giant feasts. In a few weeks many of us will take a step back in order to reflect among family and friends on all that we are thankful for.
But what if Thanksgiving was not just one isolated day; what if it became a lifestyle? What if we took back Thanksgiving from just being a traditional American celebration, and instead lived it out as a thumbprint of the creator on the character of our lives? What would our life look like if we practiced a life of Thanksgiving?
Gratitude changes us. Gratitude changes the world.
This month, we are going to look at what it means to live a life of thanksgiving in a world that has lost the art of saying thank you. If you’re the type of person that wants to change the world with practical means, then today’s post is for you.
I remember reading a magazine article about one of my favorite celebrities when I was a teenager. This particular “A-lister” was known for being kind, generous, and for always writing thank you cards. I was inspired. I knew that I wanted to be like that; someone that acknowledged people for the ways they make a difference in my life. So, from that point I started trying to exercise the same practice: taking the time to write meaningful thank you cards.
I love thank you cards. Thank you cards allow us to move beyond being grateful for things, and instead focus on being thankful for people. People matter. Relationships are more important than “stuff.” And thank you cards force us to remember that, and to focus on the right thing to be thankful for. They force us to articulate our gratitude, and strip away any remnant of entitlement.
Since April of this year, I have had the privilege of writing over 60 thank you cards. I know the count because I purchased a large box of beautiful cards, and that box is gone as of last week. But over 60 thank you cards written to tell people thank you for their investment into my life. Whether it was a meal made after my son was born in June, a gift given, timely encouragement offered during moments of defeat, or generous time given to come alongside and help when I needed it. Over 60 thank you cards written to people in my life.
Appreciation goes a long way in developing healthy relationships. We live in a culture that is crippled by entitlement. Saying thank you for everything from the mundane to the extravegent consciously reminds us that we are not owed anything; we have reason to be thankful. When the people in our lives know that we notice their efforts to love us, provide for us, show grace and mercy to us, we tie our heart strings together a little bit tighter.
Most of us have probably received the obligatory thank you card. You know–the one that you get, and you can tell that the person writing it really didn’t want to write it, but didn’t want to be labeled as rude? The quick, scribbled, too-formulaic card that says thank you, but is shallow and insincere? Let’s avoid being the people that write those cards.
Instead, let’s seek to truly be thankful. Let’s dig deep and express our sincere gratitude. How?
Here are a few tips to writing a meaningful thank you card:
1. Be sincere.
This is the most critical characteristic of telling someone thank you. People are hard-wired with an awareness of pretense. If you’re going to take the time to write a thank you card (which you should), then be sincere in your thanks.
2. Address a specific person (or in some situations, a group of people).
To whom are you thankful? What is their name? What do they mean to you personally? Use their name, and specifically tell them how they have impacted your life for the better.
3. Say thank you for a specific gift or service you were given.
Tell them what you are thankful for. The delicious tortellini soup you were given when you were sick? The contribution made to your fundraiser? Someone letting you borrow their car while yours was in the shop? Write what you were thankful for, and specifically how it helped you.
There are times when I feel lazy; when I don’t feel like writing a card. I don’t feel like taking the time to express sincere thanks. I just want to take, receive, and not reflect gratitude. It’s in these moments that I say one sentence to myself: “If this person can invest the time and money to provide this service/item to me, I can take three minutes to write them a note to express my gratitude.”
You don’t have to be a wordsmith. And you don’t have to write a novel in every card. But trust me—thank you cards are important, not just for propriety’s sake, but for your soul. Communicating thanks is a language of love that breeds even more thanksgiving in your heart. So today, choose to be a thankful person who changes the world by simply saying “thank you.”