My wife, Shirley, and I have gone on vacations to a quiet beach in southwestern Florida for most of our married life. If that beach could talk, it would tell of teenage newlyweds who sunned and wrote "I love you" on its sands. It would tell of a little girl with eyes the color of the sea gathering seashells and of three wild boys leaping and diving into the surf. It would tell of joyous visits over the years from friends, parents, grandparents, new brides and grooms -- and now grandchildren. The beach would tell glorious tales of warmth and gratitude.
But I realized one day that I had rarely expressed my gratitude to the one who’d lived those years with me. On our 40th wedding anniversary, Shirley and I walked again the familiar margin of the sea. I told her then how thankful I was that she shared my life.
We don’t have to wait for anniversaries to thank the ones closest to us -- the ones so easily overlooked. If I have learned anything about giving thanks, it is this: Give it now! While your feeling of appreciation is alive and sincere, act on it. Saying thanks is such an easy way to add to the world’s happiness.
A few years ago, a young woman from a neighboring town won a scholarship to a prestigious college. Although the inner-city high school she attended was plagued with problems, she overcame them and excelled. When she graduated, she commended the often-maligned school for its challenging courses and her teachers for their special interest and encouragement. "I can’t say enough good things about the school and the teachers who gave me so much of themselves," she said. "I shall be eternally grateful to them."
Saying thanks not only brightens someone else’s world, it brightens yours. If you’re feeling left out, unloved or unappreciated, try reaching out to others. It may be just the medicine you need.
Before A. J. Cronin became a bestselling author, he was a doctor. Once he told about a colleague who gave an unusual prescription to patients afflicted with worry, fear, discouragement or self-doubt. The doctor called it his thank-you cure. "For six weeks I want you to say thank you whenever anyone does you a favor. And to show you mean it, emphasize the words with a smile." Within six weeks most of the doctor’s patients showed great improvement.
Of course, there are times when you can’t express gratitude immediately. In that case don’t let embarrassment sink you into silence -- speak up the first time you have the chance.
I recently returned home to Montpelier, Ohio, for a short visit. Memories of my boyhood flooded back as I walked the familiar streets. Then I saw Mrs. Bible, and my mind flashed back to high school.
I was a freshman, more interested in sports than school work, and I was falling behind in my Latin class. Then Violet Bible, a neighbor who was a schoolteacher, found out about my problem. "Oh, Latin’s great fun," she told me. "Come over tonight after dinner and I’ll show you." For the next several weeks, she tutored me until I could conjugate with the best of them -- well, almost. Anyway, I passed. At the callow age of 14 it seemed perfectly natural to me that a working wife and mother had nothing better to do after a hard day’s work than tutor me in Latin.
Now as I saw her, I realized what an uncommon sacrifice it had been. And, after all those years, I told her so! "What you did was way beyond the call of duty," I said. "Thank you." I was rewarded with a surprised smile and a sparkle in her eyes.
Each human being is yearning for kind words of appreciation. In December 1991, 17-year-old Candi Brown’s car overturned; the roof collapsed and crushed her skull. The crews of Engine Company 8 and Med 15 in Grayson, Ga., rushed her to Gwinnett Medical Center. Doctors told her parents to prepare for the worst. But Candi survived. A year later the family served a holiday dinner to the Gwinnett County firefighters and emergency medical technicians. During dinner Candi, whose goal is to walk naturally again, rose painfully and said, "Thank you for helping God save my life and giving me a second chance. I love you."