November brings with it cooler weather, leaves of gold and the feeling of thanks in the air. It’s the perfect time to begin a practice of gratitude. You Know Neen is hosting the 2nd Annual 30 Days of Gratitude blog series, a place where the experience of gratitude will be explored and shared. I, along with several other contributors will be sharing our thoughts on all things gratitude.
I had three heartfelt and overwhelming experiences with gratitude this week. The gratitude was expressed toward me – I was on the receiving end of thanks for something I had done. It made me take pause and reflect.
While it is easy for me to express gratitude for my life, to the Universe to family and friends and to strangers holding the door for me, receiving gratitude from others is a bit more challenging.
The first thank you was from a young 21 year old man. I recently helped him navigate a trip to Chicago for a class assignment. My day job allows me to work with students and one of my responsibilities is to in fact, assist said students with trips to the city. So we sat, we Googled, we went over options. I did my job.
When ‘John’ came back two days later, I asked if he needed to change his trip. He told me no, he was just stopping by to say thank you so much for taking the time to help him. He really appreciated it. He said he stopped by the day before, but I was already gone. He came by, twice, to say thank you. To me.
I was about to say “Oh gosh, no big deal, your welcome,” when I realized something. He made a special effort to seek me out and express gratitude. It meant something to him. If I shrugged it off as “It’s my job,” I would be diminishing not only his effort, but his sense of gratitude. So I said, “You are so welcome John, it was so good to meet you. You coming by to say thanks means a lot to me.” We smiled and said our goodbyes.
The next two thank yous came in the form of cards I received in the mail. Snail. Mail. Not bills, not political ads, letters.
One was a kind and thoughtful letter letting me know how much ‘Jane’ appreciated reading my weekly column in our community newspaper. I have known Jane for years, through our kiddos. We don’t talk often aside from the baseball field or the occasional run in at the market. But we have a kind relationship.
When she sent a note, I was shocked and pleased and delighted. She said I was uplifting and a positive voice in her life. I am beyond humbled. And at first it made me feel strange and unworthy. More on that in a paragraph or so.
The second letter, and third thank you of my day was from a woman I met nearly 20 years ago when Hubs and I attended her and her husband’s 25th anniversary party. An older couple, they were always so kind and exuded warmth and generosity. Her sweet note let me know she too enjoyed my weekly local column and gave me praise, kind words and encouragement. She said she was grateful to read me every week. She also sent me a heartfelt poem she penned years ago that she gifted to her family for Thanksgiving.
Again, I was humbled and again felt unworthy of the thanks and praise.
Why is accepting gratitude challenging? Perhaps because we hear expressions of appreciation most days (doors held open, a thank you to the cashier.) Maybe it seems commonplace, therefore not significant?
Why is it easier to give than to receive? I think it is part humility, part habit and part feeling unworthy. And I think it’s time to not only practice giving, but practice receiving gratitude. Allow people to appreciate us and our deeds. Allow people to give us thanks and praise. Allow people to give the GIFT of thanks.
While our first response as receivers seems to be to shrug it off as no big deal, acting like it isn’t a big deal unintentionally shows the giver our act or words weren’t as important as they deemed.
Often when I stop people to truly thank them, I want to look them in the eye and know they really receive my thanks. If I take the time to thank you, what you have done really means something to me; your act has changed me somehow or made my life easier or touched my heart.
We all know how that feels right? When we’ve expressed thanks and the receiver says “Yeah, sure, no big deal.” It’s almost like they are not accepting the depth of your gratitude and we walk away feeling….hurt? Or unheard?
Let’s allow people to thank us and give us praise. We are worthy. If someone comes to say thank you, let’s take them at their word and absorb their gratitude. Not only does it make us feel great, the act of receiving is in fact a gift to the giver.
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