Recently I met with a doctor who asked me what I did for a living. When I said I was a counselor he replied, “Thank you.” I must have looked at him quizzically because he immediately followed this by looking right at me and saying, “Thank you for doing that work. It’s so important.”
It was amazing, receiving that offering of unexpected thanks (and from a doctor no less, double dog wow!). It made me feel seen and appreciated and grateful. You see, gratitude is contagious.
Thanksgiving is a noun that grew from a verb; the inversion of “giving thanks.” Obvious perhaps, but the difference between the noun and the verb is enormous, particularly in our country where we are so very spoiled and egocentric that the idea of actually thanking people seems a lost art. I’m talking about really looking someone in the eye and saying, “Thank you for doing that.” Thanksgiving reminds us, if it reminds us of anything at all besides family issues, of grace and gratitude.
To thank someone requires three things: attention, acknowledgment and action. Attention means not thinking about or doing something else, not hurrying to the next thing, but being right in the moment. Acknowledgment is the recognition that someone is making a contribution of some sort. And action means actually mustering up the wherewithal to say to that person, “thank you.”
I’m not talking here about the quick, no-eye-contact sort of thanks; I’m talking about a deeper kind of acknowledgment, specific and heartfelt. We live and breathe and function each day thanks to many, many other people and circumstances that make our day-to-day life possible.
Life is an energy exchange of giving and receiving. If we just take and take and do not give back, the system starts to break down. When we fail to offer sincere gratitude we begin to take things and people for granted. We become disconnected and isolated. We lose our sense of place and connection. And when that happens, we begin to think it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say. We become self-centered and cynical.
In our world money is the currency of much energy transmission, but it has lost its meaning and its former mooring in gratitude. Swiping a piece of plastic through a small machine bears no relationship at all to handing something meaningful into another person’s hands, or looking into someone’s eyes and saying, “Thank you for helping. Thank you for doing that.” Because it’s not about money: money is purely symbolic. It’s the ritual of honoring the exchange of energies, the act of reciprocity that matters. Giving thanks acknowledges our respect and gratitude and connection. It keeps the energy of abundance—and kindness—circulating.
So to keep that energy and abundance moving this Thanksgiving I’m offering a 30 THANKFUL DAYS CHALLENGE: 30 days to a more grateful, kind and appreciative you. Every day this month I invite you to thank someone for something that you appreciate but wouldn’t normally take the time to acknowledge. Call them up. Write a note. Look ‘em in the eye at the market or the bank. Be sincere. Be courageous and creative. Make someone’s day with your unexpected gratitude and enjoy the pleasure of giving thanks.