Today is Memorial Day and we honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. We’ll attend parades, picnics or other celebrations, as a way to remember and show our gratitude to all the soldiers who died for this great nation and to thank the vets and soldiers still with us for their service.
It has me thinking a great deal about saying “Thank you.” It should be easiest thing in the world to do, right? Yet, most of us don’t say it enough. Or we don’t say it at just the right time. Or we wrongly assume we don’t need to say it at all because “it’s understood.” In some cases, we might even think “Why should I thank a person for merely doing his or her job?” so we say nothing.
I would say for most us, we simply forget to do it. We’re tired or thinking about other things. It’s unintentional. Regardless the reason you have for using “Thanks” sparingly, it’s time to change. Showing gratitude is the best way to recognize other people’s efforts and make them feel valued and appreciated.
I’m not talking about thinking thankful thoughts or giving someone a quick nod of acknowledgment. I’m talking about actually saying the words “Thank you.”
Think about it:
- When your significant other or child completes a choir, do you always say “Thanks?”
- When your colleagues and co-workers do something to help, do you always say “Thanks?”
- When a stranger waits a moment to hold the door or some other small act, do you always say “Thanks?”
For most people, the answer is “No.”
I think I do a fairly good job of expressing thanks, but I know I can do better. I know that I have missed opportunities to thank people in my life. There are family members, colleagues, mentors, old friends and strangers who have done acts of kindness and service for me that I have not fully and properly acknowledged with a spoken “Thanks.” I’m getting better as I mature, but I still have some catching up to do.
It’s not too late.
For example, a few weeks ago I thought of something a friend of mind did for me in high school, and I had never thanked her for it. We were friendly in high school, but not really close friends. She was pretty, popular and very outgoing (at least that’s how I remember her). I was geeky, awkward and terribly shy around girls (that’s how I remember me).
One day in the gym she stepped in to stop some people from slapping the sunburn on my back. Because of my embarrassment and shyness, I never thanked her. I appreciated what she did. I just didn’t say anything about it.
When I remembered again, I found her on Facebook, and I sent a thank-you message thirty-something years after the event. Based on her reaction, I’m guessing it was a pleasant surprise to her. As I suspected, she had not remembered the event. It was a small event out of four years of high school. There was no reason for her to remember.
It was important, though, to let her know that I had remembered and that her kindness made a difference for someone. In the end, it cost me almost nothing, and it was encouraging to her. I would call that a great return on investment. I am really happy that I remembered the event and that I took action on the memory.
Who has done something for you that you haven’t yet thanked them for? Perhaps it is a vet or active military personnel you can thank this weekend, or maybe it is someone from your past who made a huge impact on you. Find those people and thank them. You will be glad you did.