… who has taken you from crayons to perfume? This week I’ve been thinking about the different ways to thank people, and I couldn’t resist following that question with the rest of the line from the song: To Sir With Love, performed by Lulu. And as long as I’ve put it out there, that’s a great example. There are some acts of kindness that deserve more than the oft repeated, and often automatic phrase, thank you.
My mom taught me that you shouldn’t use a gift, or spend a gift of money, until a thank you note has been written. Good rule. But that rule proved a bit of a challenge for me this past summer. A month or so after my surgery, I received a package in the mail containing dachshund shaped ice cube trays. The return address was unfamiliar and I wasn’t sure if it was intended to misdirect me or if it was the address of the product manufacturer. I cautiously reached out to a couple people that I felt comfortable asking, “Hey, did you send me a gift?” but the mystery remained.
After a couple weeks or so with the cellophane wrapped trays still sitting on the kitchen counter, MOH asked, “What are you doing with these? Are you going to open them or what?” “I can’t open them,” I told him. I don’t know who they’re from and I haven’t sent a thank you.”
As I pondered who might be the mysterious gift-er, I was reminded of other times I was the recipient of anonymous acts of kindness, big and small. Once when we were crossing the Mackinac Bridge, the car in front of us paid our toll fees. Needless to say, we could have paid the toll ourselves or we wouldn’t have been in line, but that small gesture was so unexpected, and given with no expectation of reward, it brought an unexpected brightness to a long day of travel. I’ve trudged through several inches of snow in the parking lot after work to find my car cleared and my windshield scraped. And I’ve remembered often, and spoken of, the unknown woman who sat with my mom in the gravel on the side of the highway, holding her hand while waiting for medical help to arrive.
And what about those that did me a solid and I didn’t recognize it for what it was until they were out of touch, out of reach? Twenty years later, I want to thank my son’s second grade teacher, Ms. Summers. She changed the course of his learning construct, affecting his entire scholastic experience. My first manager in the HR field, Louise Smith, was a mentor that shaped the direction of my thirty year career.
Mom told me about a time that she was very sick at home and she was struggling to take care of her three pre-schoolers. A woman from church, who was an acquaintance, but not really a friend, showed up one day and while my mom rested the woman washed the dishes, vacuumed the floor, and read to my siblings. When my mom told the woman that she simply didn’t know how to thank her, the church lady said, “Someday you will do the same for someone else.” And she did, along with so much more.
Out of necessity, I’ve learned to be creative in thanking people, especially those I don’t know or to which I don’t have access.
- Pay it forward
- Say a prayer for the giver of the gift
- Make a donation of money or do an act of kindness in memory of someone
- Send a positive energy thank you into the universe
I recently learned that it was my high school party friend who sent me the ice cube trays. I was tickled to find out it was her and relieved to be able to send her a thank you note. Now I only have 999,999 other people to thank for making a difference in my life.