Monday, October 09, 2006

On the Giving of Thanks

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Yesterday, we left town at dawn for the three hour drive to the cottage. We chose to drive very rural roads and were in thrall as the sun rose to light the autumn foliage while tender mist hung picturesquely in the low areas. The deer were out in force, however, foraging for their own Thanksgiving banquets; they were out in such force that we had four narrow misses. Yes, our hearts leapt to our mouths more than once as we braked and swerved to avoid colliding with those white-tailed critters.

I am thankful that we were able to avoid the breaking of bodies and denting of vehicles, but it is the Giving of Thanks rather than the feeling of thankfulness that has been much on my mind lately. For the time being, I am not so much thinking about feeling thankful for our blessings but about our responsibility to express our thanks to others when they have aided us in some way.

You see, I live with a very considerate woman. Come the end of June when school was out for the summer, she was the only one of our Tuesday night group who thought to give a card and little gift to our own Linedancing teacher. The only one! Heck, I was an unthanked-taken-for-granted teacher for thirty years, and I didn't even think to express my appreciation for this woman who freely donates her time, week in and week out. Another little example: when we moved last year, The Boy asked a few of his friends to help him do little jobs for us. Cuppa was thoughtful enough to show her appreciation by sending them gift certificates. They were blown away and felt very good about having come to our aid because they knew that we really appreciated their efforts.

It's simple: people appreciate being shown appreciation. Most of us like to help others; it makes us feel good to lend a helping hand. But sometimes we don't feel so good about what we have done if an appropriate measure of thankfulness is not returned to us. A number of years ago, for example, we had a computer to give away. Although it wasn't new, it was still a very decent computer in very decent shape. We asked daughter if she knew of a deserving university student who might be able to make use of it. She did, and we packed up the computer, monitor, and printer, and deposited it at Bug's place for this other student to pick up at her convenience. Months later, Bug said, "Oh yeah, XX said thanks for the computer." Somehow, I didn't feel thanked. Could the girl have not taken a few moments to pen a few heart-felt words in a card? That's all she had to do — not much — but it would have helped me feel a whole lot better about the giving of this gift. As it stands, I was cheated out of much of the pleasure that is supposed to come from giving.

I think most of us are like that. We're human, and we like to feel appreciated. About a month ago I watched Oprah's special on New Orleans. Bon Jovi was on the show; he and his band had donated a million dollars to provide housing for evacuees. I'm sure that it felt good to do that, but I think he felt really good to be there on site and show the families their new homes in person and bask in their happiness and appreciation. Bon Jovi wanted to help and didn't need grand gestures of appreciation, but, being human, he had a need to hear the thanks of those families. It was a sort of validation; he could truly see and feel that he had done a good thing. Sometimes, we humans need a lot of reassurrance.

Our neighbour (let's call her Ivy) is another good example. She was dabbling with painting last winter. When she showed us her art work, Cuppa mentioned that I used to scan and print Cuppa's own paintings on the computer and how nice it was to have cards or reproductions of one's own work. Cuppa used to delight in giving cards of her art. Of course, I had soon volunteered to do the same for Ivy who was absolutely thrilled when she had the results in her hands. She asked me how much I wanted to be paid: "Nothing, Ivy. It's just nice to be able to do nice things for people." However, in a few days I found an envelope stuffed under the door. It contained a nice thank you donation. I knew then, that she really and truly appreciated my efforts. I didn't need her donation to put food on the table, but the gesture meant quite a lot to me. Words of the moment come cheaply, but when someone expends a little time and even expense to show her appreciation, we know that it's the real deal.

So, that's all that I want to share, and it's no grand insight, but I think it's an area that many of us overlook. Oh, we're thankful, or so we say, for the lives that we live and the nations in which we live them, and I'm sure that we appreciate the kindnesses that others sometimes bestow upon us. There are many of us, however, who need to learn to take the time and energy to properly express our gratefulness. It doesn't take much and needn't always involve monetary outlays, but it does mean a lot to people to feel truly appreciated for their acts of kindness and generosity. We all want to make a difference in this world, and, when we receive true and meaningful thanks for our humble efforts, we feel that we have, perhaps, achieved our desire and really made a difference — however small.


mreddie said...

When we’re shown an attitude of gratitude – although this is a platitude – it will certainly help our attitude and raise our spirits to a higher altitude and make us want to give again. ec

Gina said...

Yes, I think that people forget sometimes how much time and effort people put into helping others.

We tend to take things for granted a lot of the time.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you! And thank you for your post. This is a good reminder for me.

PBS said...

Happy Thanksgiving! Nice post, too.

squire said...

Great post, AC. Everyone likes to help and a heart-felt thank you is a great reward.

Anonymous said...

You're so right! It's nice to be thanked, and it's important to do the thanking. Happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. Thanks for blogging, AC! ;-)

Dale said...

Amen, brother! And thanks!

Bonita said...

This is so true, it is the little gestures of appreciation that validate our services to others. When my son got married, a family member took all the wedding photos. My son went to one of the finer restaurants in town and got a gift card which would provide a good meal for her and her husband. It fit simply in a thank you card, understated, but sweet. Their faces lighted up receiving it.

Heather said...

A very good reminder, AC. I almost always have good intentions of sending out thank you cards, etc., but so often fall short. I need a little nudge like this now and then.

Dee said...

Yes, I do think that we often do not thank people the way we should for the things they do for us but I do not think it is intentional for many to do that. I think some are just so busy and caught up in their daily living that they overlook the importance of saying thank you to people for what they do.

You are wrong though. It is a grand insight and shows me what kind of character you have. Thank you for the small reminder. *s*

Coll said...

How true... and your post brings to mind a quote:

"Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.
Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness.
Thankfulness may consist merely of words.
Gratitude is shown in acts."
~ David O. McKay ~

Arctic Fox said...

Well stated! I agree with you 100%! I used to take more time to do those little things for people, but when I rarely saw that action reciprocated I became discouraged and thought that maybe what I was doing was 'strange'. It's nice to hear that others take the time to make someone else feel appreciated. It's a good feeling to both give and receive appreciation!

pupski said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you anvilcloud! It doesn't take much effort to show a little appreciation and can make all the difference to someone. i have brought my son up to always send a thankyou card when relative send him a gift or money at birthdays and christmas. It only takes a little time and effort and it is a little contact.

My sisters kids never say thanks, not even a phone call, I still send them a gift and I don't begrudge it but it makes me sad - it's like they take for granted that are going to get something, when actually there have been hard times where it has been a struggle to do it.

If everyone showed their appreciation for small kindnesses wouldn't it be a better world.

Way to go Cuppa!

Loner said...

you know how sometimes you are led somewhere because you need a little lesson - well, today that was my situation. I have really been struggling with saying thank you appropriately, and what you said prods me to excape my slump and say thank you appropriately.
And for your words of wisdom, I thank you yet again.

kathy said...

I forget that your Thanksgiving Holiday comes sooner than ours. Happy Thanksgiving Avilcloud & Cuppa!

A quote comes to mind for me also.

"Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality".
-Alfred Painter-

Ginnie said...

I think that our society is so based on speed and immediate gratification that we don't take time to observe the small things like saying "thank you". I think we need to teach this generation that it is not only the thing to do...but that it reaps great rewards, as you describe so well in your post. Thanks for that and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, too.

I_Wonder said...

You've writen solid, genuine, down-to-earth words to truth. You've inspired me to do -- not say but do -- some thanks yous.

Valerie - Riding Solo said...

I actually collected thank you notes to remind me I did good.

So yes, I write them.

Turtle Guy said...

"It's simple: people appreciate being shown appreciation."

Do you suppose it's a need for affirmation? There are those who want no attention drawn to their actions of a helping hand or of charity.

methatiam said...

Another Canadian Thanksgiving. This means that it's been a little over a year since you and Cuppa and Chelsea and I met online.
Thanks for keeping up with that.
It means allot.

Tim Rice said...

Thanks for this reminder of the importance of expressing our gratitude for other people and what they do for us. Something that I probably need to be reminded of from time to time.