Last Thanksgiving, I wrote a blog post An Attitude of Gratitude to share my new mission:
In order to thank some of the countless influential people in my life, between this Thanksgiving and next Thanksgiving, I will send 52 thank you notes–one for each week of the year. I will ponder how these people have influenced me, and share these thoughts with them.
Now that it’s been a year, it’s time to reflect on my gratitude journey.
Early on, it became clear that my guiding question was:
How can I show people that they matter?
As I wrote in my blog post My Contribution, My Space Jam, I came to the conclusion that I want this to be my contribution to the world: I want to show others that they matter.
Thank You Notes
I am proud to report that I reached my goal of writing 52 thank you notes. Many of my thank you messages were to family, friends and colleagues, but most of the notes I wrote were to my students.
In my messages, I shared with my students why they matter, and I made sure to use growth mindset statements focusing on effort as opposed to intelligence. I took each student aside to read them the card I’d made for them. Seeing my students’ faces light up as I did this will be something I’ll never forget. It warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
My Students Sharing Gratitude
My students even became active participants in this journey. As I wrote about in Transforming a Task with Tech, my eight students wrote thank you messages for children’s author Mo Willems, whose books we’d been reading since the beginning of the year. We used the hashtag #thankyoumo to send him eight thank yous over eight days.
During the month before “The Thank You Book” was released, Mo led a Thank-o-Rama where he encouraged others to express their gratitude. Much of this was done over Twitter. My students were convinced that the idea for the book and the Thank-o-Rama had come from our Thank You Mo project. In any case, Mo liked our tweets, and the students were delighted to have connected with him over Twitter!
When I wrote about my gratitude journey last year, many people responded through comments on my blog, messages on Facebook or conversations in the hallway at school. People told me that my post inspired them to share their gratitude. Some of them also ended up writing their students thank you notes.
Though most of my notes were given directly to the recipient, I also posted a thank you message on Facebook for my mentor on Thank a Mentor Day. Later, I was thrilled to see that her former mentor added a comment on my message about how proud he was of her.
In early December, I posted on Twitter about my thank you notes for students. Angela Maiers, who has inspired many of my blog posts such as You Matter and You’re a Genius, responded enthusiastically to my tweet, saying that my cards were a gift that would last long after they were given. It was a phenomenal feeling that I had touched someone who had inspired me so much.
Since Angela has a massive following on Twitter, the picture I took of my students’ thank you notes has now been viewed by thousands of people all over the world, thus sharing my message with a wider audience and hopefully inspiring people along the way.
Emails, Chats and Cupcakes
Writing thank you notes was only one of the ways I showed appreciation. I also sent emails to airline representatives and hotel employees who’d provided excellent service. I used Twitter to send thank yous to authors and artists whose work I appreciated. Whether on the phone or at a store, I asked to speak to the manager to applaud an employee’s work. I also brought in cupcakes to school and gave them to security and cleaning staff.
Continuing the Journey
In these small ways, I tried to show people that they matter. As I did this I thought:
What would it be like if everyone put in a little more effort to show others that they matter?
I can count on one hand the minutes it took me to thank someone, but I can’t count how many times I heard “You made my day!” or “You made my week!” Taking just a few minutes to show appreciation for someone can make a huge difference to that person.
What started as a gratitude goal of 52 thank you notes has turned into a shift in my mindset. I now make it a point to notice things to be thankful for, and I try to express my appreciation.
Although I achieved my thank you note goal, I have not thanked all of the people I’d like to, so I will continue voicing my appreciation.
Expressing my gratitude not only lifts up the person I’m thanking, but it brings me much joy too. But don’t just take my word for it: It turns out this happiness boost is just one of the 14 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. So that leaves me with one question:
Who will YOU thank today?