Friday, November 26, 2010

What Thanks Do I Get?

This will not be one of those "what am I grateful for" Thanksgiving commentaries. I avoided this article specifically for the day after for that reason. I am grateful, certainly. I feel so gifted by God it is unbelievable. I have more than I asked for and more than I deserve. If you don't feel that way then nothing I write is going to change that so I spared myself the typing energy.

I wanted to focus the event of receiving thanks from someone. I wanted to spend some time on what it feels like to hear "thanks". Getting a "Thank You" can be a great experience. It can also be an emotional one. I guess it depends on what I am being thanked for that generates a given emotion. An unexpected acknowledgement of a job well done or a thoughtful gesture makes me smile sheepishly and makes me feel a little embarrassed as well. I used to spend time creating explanations for why I did what I did or dressing down a compliment because I didn't feel worthy of the nice comment. I felt awkward. I probably even felt like I was being humble in countering with a reason why there was no need for attention. One day, my grandmother had heard me do this one too many times. In response to watching my behavior when receiving a compliment she curtly exclaimed "just say 'Thank You', Brittany". Then I really was embarrassed and for the right reasons. No one wants to hear why you don't think what they should have complimented you or thanked your for something. Dumbing down what they considered worth mentioning is like telling them they are wrong. I didn't realize that until my grandmother pointed that out. Thanks, Betty!

I have also had my moments where I expected a "Thank You" and didn't get it. I used to stew in those moments. Aren't they just ungrateful? I would also label the offenders as selfish or entitled. I happened to mention this to a friend one day. This man is a very wise presence in my life. I actually call him 'Yoda' for that reason. He isn't afraid to point out where I am misguided. He listened to me and asked me what my motive was for doing what ever it was that I did that I thought should have elicited some praise. What was my motive? Well, I wanted to either do something nice, or I thought I should have done something out of charity or duty. After waiting for my reply he retorted. "If you did what you did for purely selfish reasons then why do you feel bad about not getting something in return"? Ouch! That stung but he was right. Why did I think I deserved something in return if I thought I should be doing what I was doing? If I knew ahead of time that I would not get what I perceived to be the proper response, would I have withheld action? No, of course not. I had no reason to go away sore for not getting my just desserts if I wanted to do what needed doing. I then set out doing matters of charity anonymously on purpose. I did things in such a way that would ensure I couldn't be thanked. You know what? It was very freeing. It became a game. What good could I do for others without their knowing? The first time I heard someone tell me the wonderful or helpful thing someone did for them and how much they appreciated it without them knowing I was the giver was elating. That is the trick, to feel the gratitude without blurting out "it was me"! That way, it stays selfless. Give it a try, you'll see what I mean.

I have had the awesome experience of doing something completely unimaginable in terms of helping a wonderful family with a pain in their lives that they could not solve alone. I was able to help fulfill an answer to prayer. There is no way I can describe what it feels like to have someone tearfully say "Thank You" when you know those two words couldn't possibly cover the emotions behind it. I was speechless to say "You're welcome" because that didn't even come close to an appropriate response. In this case, I'd like to think our souls just do the talking for us when language can't cover it. I pray that one time in your life, you'll be able to have that experience. It is a definite game changer in how you will go on about your living after that. I promise. Want to know what it was? Forget it, I'm not saying.

What of giving thanks? Well, I thank everyone who helps me. It cultivates the feeling of gratitude in my heart. The cashier, the mailman, the person who opens the door for me as an act of courtesy, the person who let's me into the lane I should have been in when I am late to the trigger in figuring that out. I thank everyone I can. I look them in the face, smile and say it. I want my daughter to see me doing it. I want others to see me doing it and to see the response the hearer has. I think thanking is contagious just like hiccups and smiling. I thank everyone who reads my work. I cry when I get heartfelt emails saying they can relate and telling me how much they enjoy my writing. Whether or not you realize, I keep doing what I do because of you. If not for the "thanks" I might have gone back to being in Business. You never know who you'll impact or how just by two simple words that take no effort at all.

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