Two Simple Words
Author: Sheri Denkensohn-Trott
Thank you is often one of the first phrases that a child learns to say when they begin speaking. It is likely preceded or followed by “please.” My guess is that these two simple words are phrases we learn early in life because they are used often and that should be the case. According to experts such as Martin Seligman, who is one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology and the Science of Happiness (in addition one of his first students in this area, Caroline Adams Miller), gratitude is an essential element of happiness.
Growing up, writing a thank you was almost like brushing your teeth or riding a bike. It was automatic. Whenever I received a gift from a family member, friend, or someone else outside of my immediate family, my mother sat me down and I either drew a picture as a thank you (when I was very young) or as I got older, I actually wrote on a note card that had the title “Thank You.” I never thought it was extra work or something that was a chore. It was important to show other people that I was happy with what they gave to me and that it meant something. And I did feel good, even when I could not express the fact that it was something called “gratitude.” But I knew that it was more than just a nice thing to do.
I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old fogey, but now that I am over 5 decades old, I wonder where the trend is going. It is extremely rare to get a written thank you, even when the gift is substantial like for a baby or a wedding gift. Some things are small, like a bottle of wine given to me at a party my wife and I are hosting. I don’t expect a thank for that type of gift. However, it is easy enough to send a text message with an emoji or an email. Forget about an actual hand written thank you card with a stamp and address on the front. I don’t mean to be crass, but my husband and I have started to think about how much we want to give somebody the next time an occasion occurs when we give a gift and don’t get a thank you of any sort. It doesn’t take more than a couple of seconds to send a text message. So, there is no excuse that it is too time-consuming. And not to sound like a whiner, but when you have a disability it takes significant effort to buy a gift, get a card, wrap it, and go to the event or in some cases go to the post office or UPS store and send it. Plus, it is not like there is a money tree in our backyard.
It may sound corny, but I love reading funny cards in a pharmacy or card store. I get joy out of taking them out and sending them to others celebrating a birthday or other special occasion. And that joy turns into genuine happiness when I receive a comment via text, email or possibly phone, saying that my card was funny and made the person happy. I would do it again in a heartbeat when I know that someone was grateful for my actions.
One of the best stories that I heard just recently was from a friend who lost her mother. She told me about her mother giving her granddaughter very expensive gifts. The granddaughter had an eye for the finest. But the grandmother was not shown appreciation at the time and never received a thank you in any written form. As a result, the grandmother started giving gifts that cost less, but were meaningful all the same. Still no thank you of any form. When Christmas rolled around, the grandmother was so hurt that she decided that it was time to make a point. She got joy from giving the best gift ever. A box of thank you’s wrapped up! When I heard the story, I laughed out loud. And the sad thing is, the granddaughter has forever lost the opportunity of feeling happiness by never showing gratitude to her now deceased grandmother.
It is simple. There is no magic formula to figure out. You can be happy by doing something for others. It is as simple as a two-letter word. Say thank you in person at the time, or make sure to send a text or email. And if you really want to feel happy, a written thank you wins the prize!