Saturday, January 07, 2006

You? Yes, you.

Have you told your loved ones that you love them lately?
Have you read a book to a child lately?
Have you sent an unexpected card, letter, or care package to anyone lately? I'm not talking about email, chain letters, and requests for money or favors. I'm not talking about mass-produced Christmas letters or photos of the children and the dog. I mean a real letter, sent via snail mail, with a handwritten note.
Have you called a long lost friend and reconnected lately?
Have you contacted a former teacher, mentor, or coach and thanked them for the influence they have had in your life?

I once bought a book that consisted of nothing but thank you letters. The author decided to thank her childhood busdriver, her rabbi, the makers of Lactaid pills (for those of us who are lactose intolerant) and sent copies of that letter to Ben & Jerry's, Good Humor, and Baskin Robbins. She thanked Bic for their pens, the CEO of Boeing for not hiring her, movie stars, people who sat next to her in restaurants... you get the picture. Many of the letters were mailed, and many of them weren't.

I met Pam Janis, the author of Thank you, Everyone, at a library reading and book signing way back in June of 1999. I was moved by her desire to thank not only everyone who had made a positive impact in her life, but also those whose decisions and actions may have hurt her at one point, but in the end brought about change and advancement for Pam. So I ask you, and I ask myself, who have I thanked lately? Whose words have encouraged me lately - and have I thanked them? Whose criticism has stung me lately - and have I thanked them?

This morning I was publicly humbled, humiliated really, by someone who had been upset with me for several months apparently, but hadn't said anything about it until today. At church. In front of other people. I offered no excuse, no explanation, and immediately said I was sorry. Needless to say, I've spent a lot of time since then thinking about what she said and how hurt she has been all these months. I didn't remember having wronged her, but my forgetfulness doesn't matter. She remembered. She was in pain. I was sorry. I am sorry still.

Here's the thing: after the initial waves of anger, shame, and vengeful thinking passed, I was thankful to her for telling me the truth. I am glad she was able to unburden herself and feel better for having told me. And I am thankful for the lessons I have learned today about myself, about my fallible humanness, about how careless and thoughtless I can be. I am planning to write her a note and thank her for the lessons she taught me.

I left that meeting feeling drained and went to my local drug dealer for a $4 hit of caffeine mixed with chocolate, otherwise known to us junkies as a mocha with an extra shot. The kind young man behind the counter greeted me with a smile, took my order, and then handed me two free drink coupons because he liked my hair. I will head back over there in the next couple of days to thank him again for his kindness and generosity. And get another hit.

So what are you waiting for?
Sign off the internet and go thank somebody for something.
What the heck? Give them a hug while you're at it.
You? Yes, you.

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