A principal at one of the schools in my district called me one afternoon because their counselor was away at a conference and one of his students needed someone to talk to.
Our counselors work together and support each other, and I was happy to help. I drove across town to the other school and checked in at the front desk. After a couple of hours of conversation and waiting for support to arrive, I left the student (who is still doing well) with a qualified clinician and returned to the front desk to sign out.
“Wait!” The secretary jumped from her seat when she saw me. “There’s a note here for you.”
“Oh! Okay.” I took the envelope bearing my name to my car. Tired, hungry and wondering whether I should take a break or tackle the next thing on my to-do list, I paused to open the note.
It was from the principal. As memory serves, it read simply, “Thanks for taking time from your day to come when I called. It was a great support to have you here.”
That small gesture from a very busy man gave me comfort and peace. It enabled me to give thanks for the outcome of the session and for good work to do. It helped me entrust the student’s life to God and to take care of myself by having some lunch in prayer and silence before taking on the next task. And it strengthened a bond of gratitude and good will I’d always had with a kind administrator whose heart ached for his student and wanted the best for her.
My mother insisted that her children write thank you notes to relatives after Christmas and birthdays. She was relentless with reminders until I’d written everyone who’d sent me a gift. At first, she read my notes before they went out, instructing me on how to make them a little more heartfelt when something as rote as “Thank you for the doll. I really like it” was the best I could muster.
Though I’ve never stopped writing thank you notes, I’ve noticed an encroaching tendency to put off the task until it’s almost silly to do it. “Sorry this is late, but I’ve been soooo busy.” The self-centeredness in my hurried apologies negates the act of thanksgiving. True gratitude and humility are intimately linked.
I once heard a priest who had known Cardinal Cooke, the late Archbishop of New York, comment on Cooke’s humility by noting how frequently the cardinal thanked others. You couldn’t give the man so much as a pencil but what you received a written thank you note by the end of the day, he said.
“Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were called into one body,” St. Paul reminded the early Christians (Colossians 3:15). “And be thankful.”
Let our thankfulness mark new growth in humility. Let it flow from our pens and from our lips. Let us say it to God. Let’s say it to the strangers whose small kindnesses fill more of our days than we usually recognize. Let’s say it to each other. Let’s let the peace into which we were called control our hearts. Let’s be thankful.
For a boost to your motivation to say thank you, read Make Your Life Better by Saying Thank You in These 7 Situations by habit expert James Clear. It’s one of my favorite blog posts!
This post is part of a series (see A Lenten Invitation from a Babbling Brook: Focus on Speech and Silence). To receive new installments, you’re invited to Follow Sparrowfare by placing your email address in the FOLLOW box in the sidebar. Please share the posts that speak to you. In this contentious time, let’s spread the word about the importance of our words.