So there was much to do in the first part of the year, and the blog never went active. The experience of writing 365 Thank Yous has been a good one, and I do still have some things to add to the book, so here goes.
The inspiration to undertake this Pollyanish journey grew out of a hard and lonely time in my life. At the time, it seemed silly to think that writing a bunch of thank you notes would solve these problems, but, really, I didn’t have any better ideas, and having lost so much I felt I didn’t have anything else to lose. Aside from the pain of my work and personal life, a good part of my pain came from the nagging feeling that I was unappreciated. I felt I was owed. I felt more people should have been sending me thank-you notes.
Now, two years later, after writing more than 700 notes, things have changed in every aspect of my life. And among the changes is one that I never expected. Although I’m still sending out a lot of thank-you notes, but when I counted the ones I was receiving, I found I was receiving just as many as I was sending out. Today, there is no question that I am receiving more than I’m sending.
I have learned to appreciate this gift, and the inestimable effect that it has on me. I save all the notes I’ve been receiving. It is not an exaggeration to say that I treasure them. So when things are going badly, I can just rummage through a few of them to get a better perspective on my life.
I keep them in a pile on a little table in my office. When the pile of notes and letters grows too high, I put them in a file and start a new pile. This has happened twice now.
One of the first notes from a reader of the book came from my father, who at 86 has retired from his long career as a surgeon. The week before, he had sent me a text message saying he thought 365 Thank You’s, “was a great coping mechanism. If I were still in practice I would prescribe it for many of my patients.” Yes, my father, at 86, often texts. Since then, however, he has taken his son’s suggestion and wrote an old fashioned thank-you note, calling a trip we took this past summer “the highlight of the year.” In addition, and taking his father’s suggestion, he wrote to my daughter–and sent her a silver dollar. Not surprisingly, she wrote him a thank-you note.
Another note I received from an early reader was from the mother of “Grace,” who appears in the book. Readers will recall that it was a note I received from Grace on January 3, 2008 that was a pivotal motivation for my project, and kept me from abandoning my New Year’s resolution of just a few days before. Grace wrote this note, because she had been trained to do so by her mother. Grace’s mother, who was once Queen of the Tournament of Roses here in Pasadena, wrote me in January (in her beautiful handwriting) that,
“The former Rose Queens are traditionally asked what advice they would offer to the new queen and court. My suggestion stands, ‘Send thank-you notes that are handwritten.’”
I received this advice indirectly, through that first note from Grace, on January 3, 2008. Glad I took it.
Perhaps the most touching thank-you note I received in January was the one I received from the mother of Paul, a mentor of mine who was an avid marathon runner. Paul was fighting cancer when I reconnected with him during the thank-you note project, and one of the ways that he was fighting cancer was to run marathons. As told in the book, one of the great gifts I received during my thank-you note year, was the comradeship that we felt as we ran together in what was Paul’s last organized run. His mother wrote,
“I’ve read your book cover to cover, and I need you to know that I shall always treasure your kind words, which have brought solace to this mother’s grieving heart…”
If, like me, you’re feeling unappreciated, trying being a little grateful yourself. You may receive the gratitude you’ve been missing.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the many expressions of gratitude that I have received, and how the ripple that began with my first note continues to spread through my life and the lives of others, gathering strength and power.