Sunday, November 18, 2018

Essay: Giving thanks

"Gratitude isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It is a way to live." ~Attributed to Jacqueline Winspear

Cindy La Ferle


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What bothers me most about the winter holidays is that the well-meaning sentiment at their core is limited to specific dates on our calendars. We count our blessings before slicing the turkey at the Thanksgiving table, for instance, but on the following day, we resume the habit of grumbling about how hard and unfair life is. 

In the weeks before Christmas, our hearts soften again, and we send Hallmark cards professing our desire for peace, love, and goodwill toward all. After the holiday decorations come down and the last bit of glitter is swept from the floor, we return to business as usual, and the crabby months of Seasonal Affective Disorder drag on.  

But what if we were to make a point of expressing gratitude and counting our blessings every day of the year -- starting this week? 

We could thank the folks who touch our lives, even in the smallest ways.... The cook who prepares breakfast at the local diner. The driver who delivers our flowers and packages. The salesperson who lifts us with a compliment and offers great customer service. The boss who boosts our confidence. The thoughtful neighbor who brings soup when we're sick. The friend or relative who makes time to check on us at a critical moment. The auto mechanic who makes room in his schedule for our cars. 

As surely as I believe in sending flowers to loved ones while they're still alive, I'm a fan of mailing hand-written thank-you notes. And I'm always taken by surprise when others insist that these notes are redundant or unnecessary. 

Robert Brault observed that "unexpressed gratitude is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude." The way I see it, however, every giver deserves to be appreciated -- and it's a shame to miss an opportunity to tell them so. Selfishly speaking, I also find that putting my gratitude in writing gives me another chance to recall the pleasure of receiving a special gift or outstanding service.  

This week, for instance, I sent a Thanksgiving card with a personal message to every doctor and surgeon who helped me get through a frightening year of health challenges. A few sentences in a card can't possibly convey how very grateful I am for their skill and caring, but I felt better when I made the attempt.     

There are times, of course, when hand-written notes aren't necessary. A sincere, verbal "thank you" or an email is usually enough to make the giver's day. Whatever we do, we need to make it clear that thoughtful gestures, good service, and true friendship are never taken for granted. 

With that in mind, I'll be thanking a lot of people this week, and I hope you will too. ~Cindy La Ferle


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