The Flip-Side of Gratitude

If you’re anything like me, your desk becomes a wild pile of papers and other sundry items rather quickly. Categorizing things into this or that pile isn’t much of a priority (surprisingly, considering there are only so many piles things can go into). Periodically, I take on the challenge of sorting through this pile of madness, and, like usual, I’m pleasantly surprised at the result.

Among my piles of paid bills, solicitation requests and other house-keeping updates, I had amassed quite a few thank you cards.

I’m a big fan of writing thank you notes. Like most things I’m a fan of, however, it’s often that my enthusiasm for writing thank you notes doesn’t get played out. I can’t tell you how many kind birthday presents or christmas gifts went sadly un-thanked in my life. But that’s another story for another post.

I’m a big fan of writing thank you notes in part because I’m such a fan of receiving them. Gratitude, the act of feeling thanks for an unmerited action, is just as pleasurable a thing to express as it is to receive that expression. You’ve poured your heart into doing something, and though the act of doing that something is itself fulfilling (otherwise, really, why do it?), it’s also immensely gratifying to hear someone say “thank you” for that hard work and heart. Even more, it’s astounding to hear “thanks” for something that you didn’t really pour your heart into–for just being who you are, or for saying a comment that might not have been pre-meditated, but because it was spur-of-the-moment, was that much more lovely.

When I cleaned up my desk recently, it was rather overwhelming to see the thank you cards that folks had written to me. Thanks for being a good friend, for visiting someone in the hospital, for making a stole for someone’s ordination, for sharing a good idea, or for having the time to look over someone’s writing.

I understand that a big part of what society expects out of charitable people is that they not spend a lot of time drawing attention to their charity. With the exception of hospitals and institutes being named after the keystone donor, we’re mostly a culture that asks folks to downplay their giving sides.

Well, forgive me for taking pride in acting like a good human being every once in a while.

The flip side of being grateful is that you learn to accept others’ thanks graciously as well. Instead of saying “oh, it was nothing!” and brushing off someone’s thanks, it’s enough to say “it was my pleasure.” Because for most of the kind things that we do, it really is a pleasure to act generously and thoughtfully, to be kindness for each other.

If you’re anything like me, though, you forget that you can act like such a good person. You forget that other folks appreciate you for your kindness and notice when you are thoughtful, talented, and considerate.

So I pinned all of those thank you notes to my cork board. To look at and be reminded.

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