In May 2011, Alice Beard of Abilene Texas was sitting beneath the dryer at her local beauty salon, and reading the Guideposts magazine story about my year of writing thank you notes. My journey sounded familiar to Alice.
Years ago, Alice had started an annual event at her Church. It was called “Say So Week.” As Alice explains it, “We’d been watching the news, and reading the newspaper, and everything was just so depressing.” When good things happened, or when people did good things for each other, there was never any mention. “It just seemed to me that no one ever was saying Thank You.”
So Alice decided to start something. “I decided that for one week every year, we would make sure that, at least for each day of that week, we would say ‘thank you’ to someone who had done a good job, or just done something good that we appreciated. We could call, write, or just tell someone in person that we appreciated what they had done.”
What Alice started at her little Church in Abilene became “Say So Week.” “And every year, everyone would join in.” At first “everyone” meant those who attended her church, the Grace United Methodist Church in Abilene, but eventually it spread to the entire town. Grace Church passed out ribbons to all those who participated. The mayor of Abilene got in the act, and would issue a proclamation. So did the governor. “I even got a real nice letter and a picture from the President.”
But something happened to Alice, and as a result, “Say So Week” has died out in Texas. I won’t tell you Alice’s age. I’m not sure she told it to me. Still, one thing Alice said to me made me think she’s a bit older than me. It was when she told me how her heart attack had left her with no energy, and no choice but to cut back on her activities. Unfortunately, that included projects like “Say So Week.”
Without the driving force of Alice’s personality, “Say So Week” stopped happening. Now Alice’s heart suffered another, perhaps more serious injury. “I couldn’t get anyone to take my place. It broke my heart when our group broke up.”
Reading the article in Guideposts this May, however, Alice was thankful that I seemed to be carrying on the message she had tried to start with “Say So Week.” She wanted to say so. She doesn’t have a computer, and doesn’t use email. She was not content with just a handwritten note. So she tracked down my phone number, and called me. She was a little surprised when I answered the phone. “Well,” I told her, after she told me her reaction to the article, “I actually wrote a whole book about this.” Alice didn’t get out much. She didn’t know of a book store in Abilene. Apparently there is no Barnes & Noble in Abilene. By that time of the year, I knew it would be pointless to ask about Borders. Without a computer, she had no access to things like Amazon.
So I went ahead and sent her a copy. Alice liked it. “Sometimes,” she tells me, “you just meet people and you know they feel the same way you do. That’s the way I felt when I read your book.” This unlikely contact between a writer in California and a retiree in Abilene even got the attention of “Miz Cheevus” a columnist in the Abilene Reporter-News. I guess the news is not always so depressing when Alice Beard is around.
I hear from Alice every once in a while. Alice is one of those people who have not forgotten how to say thank you, and I’ve got two of my own lovely thank you notes from Alice to prove it.
Recently, she called to let me know how she’s getting involved at Grace Church again. During the Halloween season, she worked with others at her Church on a “Pumpkin Patch,” for the benefit of the “Noah Project,” a charity that helps battered women find a safe place. Long before Halloween, Alice called to report that Grace Church’s Pumpkin Patch had raised $1,438 for the Noah Project. “We had to get those pumpkins early because of the drought.”
Lately Alice sounds considerably energized. She tells me that next year she’s going to get Say So Week going again in Abilene.
In the mean time, let’s all say so. Thanks for the reminder, Alice.