How do you show your gratitude?

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Photo courtesy of Kate Ware (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Kate Ware (Creative Commons)

Gratitude really does make a difference.

Our message at church this week was about gratitude (thank you Pastor Chris!), and it made me start thinking about the two ways to be grateful – being grateful for the blessings that I have, and also extending gratitude to those around me who are making a difference.

I am constantly grateful for simple things like a beautiful sunrise, praise music while I run, and the love of good friends and family. I’m not as good about telling those around me thank you for what they are doing.

I do a lot of volunteer work with an organization called I Run 4 (read more here), which pairs runners with buddies who have special needs and challenges from Down syndrome to autism and everything in between. We run in honor of our buddies and dedicate our miles to them.

My work as connection coordinator involves a lot of emails and communications with both runners and buddies/parents as I coordinate the matches. Sometimes, members of the group will thank me for the time and effort I put into it, and it always gives me pause. I do it because I love seeing the impact on these lives and not for any glory or pats on the back. But it does make me feel good when someone notices and says a simple thank you for the work I put in.

With that in mind, the other day I made a special point to say thank you to one of my team members at work who had been working extra hard and doing a terrific job. I was amazed at the look on his face, and the way he kind of stood up straighter. It really mattered that I had noticed and acknowledged his contributions.

I don’t do that enough. I need to look for opportunities to say thank you – constantly. Not in an insincere way, but by honestly noticing how others make a difference and then saying so.

I also need to be more aware of the many blessings that I have instead of obsessing over how much work I have or how irritated I am that something isn’t going right. Even in the challenges, there are blessings, and sometimes they are more impactful than when things are rolling along smoothly. I need to be grateful for it all.

How do you show your gratitude?

Catch the little things

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Photo courtesy of Caro Wallis (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Caro Wallis (Creative Commons)

At a recent meeting, I was astounded when the leader managed to raise the morale of the team by praising or paying a compliment to every person in the room.

It was not like a checklist that he went down, but during the course of the meeting, he was able to mention something good that each person had been part of, whether it was on their own or as part of a team.

The fact that he had been observing and making notes about these accomplishments was big enough, but then he made sure to share those actions so that the rest of the team heard as well. It was truly amazing the way it boosted the entire group.

Catching people doing even little things well means so much because leaders tend to only focus on the bad things. In a sense, no news is good news, but it can be discouraging when you are working hard and you have the feeling that no one even notices.

Just a simple “thank you for doing _____” (it’s important to spell out the specific action you are praising so that the appreciation is more sincere than a blanket thanks) can go a long way toward building up your team’s morale and encouraging more of that same kind of action.

Who can you compliment doing something good today?

Thanks trump problems

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sunrise

What am I thankful for?

That’s the question I am learning to ask if I find myself sinking into a pit of negativity when things aren’t going my way. It could be issues cropping up at home or work, slow traffic, sickness, something is broken – the list goes on.

Instead of dwelling on the bad things, I try to turn it around and think of something – just one thing – that I am grateful for. A beautiful sunrise. Birds singing. Warmer weather. A dear friend.

Suddenly, that one thing turns into several things, and just like the snap of your fingers – life doesn’t seem so bad.

What are YOU thankful for?

Remembering to be thankful

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Photo courtesy of Beth (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Beth (Creative Commons)

I don’t say thank you enough. Do you?

And when we do say thank you, do we mean it and do we spell out what we are being thankful for?

I often find myself mumbling “thank you” and it’s about as meaningful as the “how are you – fine” interaction most of us have when we meet. Let’s be honest – most of the time we have that exchange, it’s just a formality – we aren’t really asking how that person is, and we certainly don’t expect any kind of accounting of how they are doing – just like we don’t give them any idea how we are that day either.

I think the same thing happens when we say “thank you” much of the time. We mumble it as an automatic response, and it loses any real meaning.  Plus half the time we walk away wondering what we were even being thanked for!

What if we stopped and actually spelled out to the other person what we are saying thank you about? Instead of just a tossed off “thanks” – imagine yourself saying,

“Thank you for (insert specific action here). That has really helped me (insert specific benefit here).”

When I spell out my gratefulness like this, it not only lets the other person know that I am noticing their actions, but it also makes me more aware of how much I truly appreciate what they have done.

A couple of examples might be:

“Thank you for helping me with the verbiage on that proposal. Your feedback made it more powerful and effective.”

“Thank you for going to lunch with me. It was really nice to catch up and enjoy your company. I loved hearing about your new job.”

“Thank you for your consistently great attitude. I don’t tell you enough how much it brightens the office/house/day when you smile.”

It only takes a minute, but what a difference a genuine thank you can make! I think we especially need to express our gratitude to those who are closest to us at home or work because they are the ones we often take for granted.

Who are you thankful for, and have you told them lately?

Do you remember to say thanks?

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Photo courtesy of Nastassia Davis

Photo courtesy of Nastassia Davis

I bumped into an old friend yesterday, someone I haven’t seen in several years. As we were catching up, he mentioned a severe health scare one of his grandchildren had several years ago, and how it was finally resolved. As we talked, he told me thank you.

When I asked why, he said that he had forgotten to thank God for the fact that they weren’t dealing with that issue anymore, and he was thanking me for reminding him of that.

I walked away wondering how often I forget to thank God.

It’s easy to say thank you for the current blessings, the things that are foremost on our minds. But do we reflect on the many ways He has provided for us through this year? And past years? For the successful surgery, the miracle of children, that satisfying job? That dear friend who is always there or your spouse?

The end of the year is always a time to look back on the year, but what if we made being thankful a part of our everyday, all year long? How would that change how we view the people and events in our lives?

What have you forgotten to be thankful for?

 

Gratitude

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Photo courtesy of live w msc (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of live w msc (Creative Commons)

Do you say thank you enough?

I had an experience this week that made me rethink and pay more attention to the people around me and what they do. And being more intentional about telling them thank you.

I work at a nonprofit that helps people with basic needs, like food, rent or utilities when they are in crisis. Many of the families we’ve seen lately have never needed help, which makes the requests more poignant.

This particular family fell fast. The husband had been in a car accident, and was badly injured and out of work. The wife worked but did not make enough to cover the bills, mortgage and new medical bills and prescriptions.

They quickly went through savings and became desperate.

We were able to help with utility bills and food. And in order to protect their home, we tapped some special funds in order to cover an overdue mortgage payment. This was more assistance than was typically granted but it was a dire situation.

That was over a month ago.

We got a call this week that the check had not gotten to the mortgage company and the wife had been served foreclosure papers at her work. What trauma!

She had scrounged up this month’s payment but the bank was demanding the full amount in order to stop the proceedings. We reissued the check and she picked it up to go to the bank. Then we get another call that the check was not made out correctly and they wouldn’t accept it. Trauma upon trauma!

We got the correct information and issued yet another check. The bank was on my way home, so I took the check to her and met her in the parking lot. I was floored.

She started apologizing to me that I had to bring the check! Are you kidding me? I kept telling her how sorry we were that this had happened and she was just shaking her head telling me how grateful they were for the help and that I had come by. Amazing.

In the midst of her panic and worry about saving her home, she was more worried that she had caused trouble to me. It was on my way home and not even out of my way.

I learned a new lesson in gratitude this week.

Power in a personal thank you

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Photo courtesy of lindsay.dee.bunny (Creative Commons)

I should be more thankful. I guess I should clarify – I should be more intentional with my appreciation of people.

I might toss out a “thanks” or “appreciate that” to folks as for helping with a project, but do I really take the time to express my sincere gratitude for those who have meaningful roles in my life? Not so much.

I have written before about appreciation (click here), and thanks to the suggestion of my friend Matt McWilliams, I even practice “thank you Thursday” occasionally – where I give out handwritten thank you notes to people I work with. An out-of-the-blue card to let them know I appreciate the work they are doing has tremendous impact on both of us. On me, because I think about how much they help me, and on them, because it lets them know that I notice how much they do.

But I’m not consistent, and I sometimes find myself dashing off some of the notes as if they were just one more thing on my to-do list. I don’t take the time I should to really express my feelings about what that person means in my life.

So that needs to change.

A personal, written thank you is a powerful tool, especially when you are expressing the ways a person adds value to your life. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How is your life richer because they are part of it?
  • What aspect of your life would be missing if they weren’t part of it? (Music, laughs, shared experiences)
  • What feelings or emotions do you feel when you think about them (Love, security, happiness, blessings)
  • What goals or dreams are possible or have you accomplished because of them?

See what I mean? Don’t take the people who mean the most to you for granted. Let them know the impact they have on you and that you are grateful for the connections you share.

Who do you need to thank today?