Tuesday, December 28, 2010

days of notes

Every year,  I make one new year's resolution.

Not to make any resolutions.

The reason?  I simply recognize who I am.

Almost all resolutions fall into two categories.  The first are the hard ones.  They end up broken within days -- if not hours.

The second are the easy ones.  The things I would end up doing in the new year -- with or without a resolution.

But a new year offers a perfect forum to consider our lives, and, in particular, our relationships with our neighbors.

While getting ready for church last Sunday, I heard a story on NPR that caught my attention.  Liane Hansen interviewed a Chicago attorney, John Kralik, about his new book: 365 Thank Yous: The Year A Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.

Mr. Kralik's story began with a 2008 new year's resolution -- to be thankful for the people and good things in his life.  What I would classify as a Type One revolution.  Destined to be shelved sometime following lunch on 2 January.

But he had a plan.  Something quite practical.  He would write a thank you note each day.  And he did.

Thank you notes.  Those little cards that are the bane of brides, nephews, and grandchildren.

But his notes were personal and heartfelt.  Always focused on the other person.

It would be easy to dismiss Mr. Kralik's  exercise as little more than a clever premise for a book.  But I know the power of hand-written notes from personal experience.

I have mentioned my friend John before.  He is the very essence of a civil man -- an anti-Aristotelian who embodies the very essence of Aristotelian civility.  Concerned for his community.  Considerate of others.

He recently helped another friend of mine put together a method to interview businesses.  John had plenty of helpful hints.  But the one that struck me most was: be certain to send a hand-written thank you note before the end of the day.

Despite the whiff of Edwardian manners, I know how much such notes can mean.  In fact, the most recent one I received was from -- John.  In his familiar scrawl.

And because he wrote it, something of him was passed along to me.  That felt good.

John Kralik said he started his project because he heard a voice tell him: "Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want."

I would re-edit that sentence to: Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you need.  But I understand -- and second -- the premise.

Writing and mailing thank you notes each day in Mexico is probably not possible -- for a number of reasons.

But I can learn to show gratitude more often.  Especially, to simply be grateful for the good things that happen each day -- and for the people who have been put in my path.

And, when I can, I will do it with my own hand.

Note:  If you would like to read John Kralik's ten suggestions on how to write thank you notes, click your way over to NPR.


Paty said...

Hey Steve--Oprah focused on a "Gratitude Journal" many years ago. She insisted that it didn't count to just be grateful; you need to write it down. She wrote in a journal every night the 10 things for which she was grateful. Some days it's easy to find 10 things; most days it is a struggle to name 10 things for which we are grateful. But that is the whole point of the exercise--to be grateful for the little things each and every day as well as the obvious. And writing it down makes it real.

Have a good 2011, Steve!

Islagringo said...

What a fantastic idea. Something along those lines has been bouncing around in my head for awhile now. I think I will modify it for Mexican living though. Maybe 1 postcard a week to somebody who means a lot to me.

Steve Cotton said...

Paty -- Writing it down is good. But gratitude has its greatest impact when it is actually expressed to the person who engendered it.

Islagringo -- I like your Mexican twist. That is a great idea.

Adrienne said...

I can't speak for your mother, brother and your other loved ones, but for me, I'm proud of you. It's not always easy to reveal oneself - flaws, foibles and failings - but you're doing it and we can learn. Bravo, and hau'oli makahiki hou (Hawaiian for happy new year)!

Leslie Limon said...

I read an excerpt from Kralik's book just last week and thought that it was a great idea. Something I will try to do myself, via email! :)

Anonymous said...

Adrienne need not worry, your Mother, Brother and loved ones love you and are proud of you. We are grateful you write a blog and allow us to read it and feel near to you. We even read between the lines and pull of happenings of the past. Enjoy yourself.


Anonymous said...

This is an inspiring NPR article. Everyone should be grateful that you passed the information along. Thanks!


Steve Cotton said...

Adrienne -- We grow by seeing the areas we need to grow. I always appreciate your insights.

Leslie -- I am going to start using the Mexican mail system. It will be a good experiment for me.

Mom -- Thanks. I know she has a very good idea how supportive you all are.

Armand -- I am glad you liked it. I know I did.

Gary Denness said...

I got a dozen or two! But no problem! It's something I haven't seen before with a Disqus install, but I'm sure there's a reason. Were you puching random buttons muttering 'What's this one do then?'....


Steve Cotton said...

Ah, yes. The random hitting of buttons. Something my first flight instructor told me to avoid doing in the cockpit. I should have transferred that skill. It is very likely I hit a button thinking it would do one thing, and it did another. But, at least, it is up and running. And so am I.

Steve Cotton said...

And I anm getting my email notifications -- just as advertised in TV.