A thank you note for a birthday card helped me appreciate the value of writing gratitude to others.
Every March, I send a birthday card to my friend, Katie, an energetic 88-year-old I met in a water aerobics class at the YMCA. Each year, along with a birthday greeting, I write on her card, "I want to be just like you!" - meaning in my eighties I hope to have the zest for life I see in Katie.
This year, she sent a thank you card. Along with her gratitude, she said, "I think you are wonderful just the way you are!"
I chuckled when I read these words that led me to pause for a minute and consider the beauty in my life.
An Unexpected Thank You
A few months ago, I received a thank you note from the CEO of Indiana University North Hospital, Randy, expressing gratitude for the time I volunteer each week. I was surprised and never expected to receive a note for my service.
Next time I saw Randy, I thanked him for his gesture of kindness. He told me he tries to write a thank you note each day to an employee or volunteer at the hospital. I was impressed with the faithfulness of this wonderful habit.
My Own Experience With Thank You Notes
Although I didn't like writing thank you notes when I was a child for gifts I received at Christmas, I was glad my mother made me write them. I carried that practice into adulthood. I taught my children to write thank you notes from the time they were little, beginning with scribblings interpreted as "thank you." I continue to write and send notes myself all these years later as a joyful habit - in fact, I cannot begin to enjoy a gift I receive until I write a thank you to the giver.
Thank you notes express appreciation, but not always for gifts. I have received notes expressing gratitude for leading a program, for vocational and professional support, for being a mentor for remembering a birthday or special occasion, and for support following the loss of a spouse.
I have written thank you notes for a meal provided, for gratitude of a friendship, and most recently I wrote a note to an old friend who gave me reassurance that a mutual friend's final days were pain free and peaceful.
Jesus Says Thank You
Jesus realized the value of offering thanks on three occasions: following the raising of Lazarus, before he fed 4,000 people and at the Last Supper.
Jesus learned that Lazarus was sick. A few days went by before he went to Bethany. When he arrived, Lazarus was already dead. Mary and Martha were grief-stricken.
Martha said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
Jesus replied, "Your brother will rise again."
Jesus, Mary and Martha went to the tomb. When the stone was rolled away, Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out. Lazarus walked out of the tomb with strips of linen wrapped around his hands and feet.
Jesus looked up and prayed, "Father, I thank you that you heard me." (John 11:41-42)
Then, when Jesus was preparing to feed four thousand people, he "took the seven loaves of bread and when he had given thanks, he broke them." (Matthew 15:35-36)
Finally, when Jesus and the disciples gathered for the Last Supper, "He took bread, gave thanks and broke it.: (Luke 22:19)
Jesus knew and modeled the value of giving thanks to God.
More Thanks From Reader's Digest
The April, 2018, issue of Reader's Digest, contains an interesting story, "Showing Your Appreciation - The Power of a Thank You Note Can Last A Lifetime." (pages 110-117)
Fifteen people shared their experiences of receiving or writing a thank you note. One was from a woman who'd been a mail carrier for 30 years. When she retired, she wrote a note to each of her 436 customers, thanking them for allowing her to serve them. On her last day, she was surprised when many hung balloons on the boxes and wrote her a thank you note. She concluded, "I hope I delivered all the mail properly that day, as there were tears of gratitude filling my eyes."
Last week at a funeral visitation, I saw a woman who was a member of Mike's first church. I met her in June, 1976. I remember writing her a thank you note for bringing us a meal after we moved.
Next time I saw her, she thanked me for the note and said, "You are just beginning to write a lifetime of thank you notes as Mike's career starts."
At the time, I didn't realize the scope of her words, but surely I have written a lot of thank you notes over Mike's 37 years with churches, because affirming people by expressing gratitude is a way I show God's love.
Questions for Reflection
1. Are there people from the past to whom you would like to express gratitude by writing a note?
2. Make a list of these individuals, and write one note a day.
3. Is there someone who has recently completed a kindness you want to acknowledge? Take a moment to write a note of appreciation.
Prayer: God, you give us everything we need, beginning with the gift of life. You provide for us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. How can we ever thank you for your goodness and love? Guide us to live our lives so we show gratitude in how we respond and interact with others. Help us daily to always give you thanks. Amen.