Gratitude is practically magic.
It’s free. It doesn’t take much time. It inspires productivity. It feels good to everyone involved. There’s no easier way to brighten someone’s day than by expressing gratitude.
I was on the receiving end of gratitude last Christmas, and I’ll never forget it.
We’re an ‘open one gift at a time’ family, so it can take a while to get through opening gifts. We were almost through when my wife asked my youngest daughter Josie if she was ready to give her last gift to me.
Josie answered, “Later, maybe tonight.”
That brought the gift explosion to an end. We waded through the treasure and trash to start our Holiday cooking. I forgot about the comment until later that night when all was quiet and another great Christmas Day was winding down.
Josie came into the family room, stood in front of the dying fire and said, “Dad, I have something for you.” That’s when I noticed her knees were shaking.
Instinctively, I pulled my iPhone out to record the big event. (Typical dad, right?) She pulled two pieces of paper from behind her back and started reading. Her voice was quivering. I slowly put my phone down, almost in shock, not knowing how to react. This wasn’t the kind of thing to record. It was too intimate and I wanted to take it all in.
I’m writing this letter because I feel that I don’t thank you enough for everything you do for us. I don’t even know where to start. You have helped me with so many things and you have always been there for me when I need you, and I’m not sure where I would be without you. I have listed some things about you that I am thankful for in this letter, and I hope you enjoy them.
She went on to thank me for many things in great detail.
Some were specific events: everything from helping her with homework, to building super-long hot wheels tracks when she was small, to creating our annual Bunnell movie every year since 2002.
Others were about empathy and passion: she thanked me for being eager to hear about her day, every day. She thanked me for pouring my heart and soul into my family and the business. She thanked me for the good times. She thanked me for my perseverance and for always getting back up when I get knocked down.
Tears rolled down my cheeks. I loved her words, but above anything, I was proud of her emotion and all the love and gratefulness that she was displaying. It takes guts to show gratitude. It takes grit to put your feelings on the line. Yet there she was, putting it all on the line, hoping I would like her carefully chosen words.
I didn’t just like them, I loved them. I loved every single word. Her guts and grit paid off. It was the best Christmas present of the day. It just might be the best Christmas present of my entire life.
Showing gratitude can be hard. It can be emotional. It can show weakness.
Maybe that’s why we don’t show gratitude as much as we should. There’s a fear underneath showing gratitude. It can show that we didn’t know the right answer. It can show that we were reliant on someone else. It can show that we were vulnerable and that we needed help.
But if we can embrace that vulnerability, share it with others, and let them know how much we appreciate them, that’s when being grateful is the most powerful. That’s when the impact is the highest. It’s so easy to think, I’ll thank them tomorrow. And then, another day goes by.
Having the guts to communicate our gratitude with love and emotion makes all the difference, not just for the person being thanked, but for us too.