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Thought Spot: Thanking Outside the Box

March 31st, 2010

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.”

                              -Hausa Tribal saying, Nigeria

“The depth and the willingness with which we serve is a direct reflection of our gratitude.”

                                – Gordon T. Watts

Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”


Ever wonder if your efforts are appreciated?

Most of us do, now and then. When I do I find it helpful to appreciate someone else’s efforts and say thank you. And I always think of Ruth, a college friend.

Ruth is a take-charge personality who could organize and run the world – which she did, in the campus clubs she joined and the classes she took. We stayed in tocuh after graduation and whenever our circle of firends gets together, Ruth is usually the one who makes it happen.  Better than social media, she’s the go-to person for up-to-the-minute news on our post-college lives.

Several years ago Ruth called me about getting together with another college friend, Elaine.  Elaine lived in Los Angeles but was back in Boston breifly for family affairs.  Over dinner and catching up on our lives the conversation eventually turned to other college friends and the burning questions: Where are they now and what are they doing?

Ruth of course knew everyone’s latest details, including news of a mutual friend who had moved to Kansas City.

I mentioned that I’d be in Kansas City on business and to visit my sister in a few weeks, which ignited Ruth’s instinct to organize and connect people. “I’ll let him know you’ll be there – he’ll be delighted to see you!”

I felt a pang of sympathy for our friend. When Ruth said you’ be delighted, you’d better be delighted.

True to her word Ruth made the connection. About a week before I was scheduled to be in Kansas City I got a phone call form the friend Ruth had contacted.  I couldn’t tell if he was delighted but he was definitely excited about something.  A few days earlier he had been sorting through some boxes from college and came across a small piece of paper that caught his eye. For some reason he couldn’t explain he didn’t put it back in the box and propped it up behind the wall phone in his kitchen.

The next day Ruth called him, chattering excitedly.  “You’ll never gues who’s going to be in Kansas City,” she announced. Our friend plucked the piece of paper from behind his wall phone ans whar he said left Ruth in a rare wordless moment. “Yes I can – Elizabeth, right?”

The piece of paper he had stuck behind the telephone was a Thank You note I had written to him during our senior year in college, for his help with the sound and lighting for a theater production I had directed. When he rediscovered this little fragment of gratitude he decided he would keep it in a place where he could see it and remember to say thank you himself.

As he told me this story I was stunned. All this time he’d kept that note. And neither of us fuully realized its impact until years later.

Needless to say, we made arrangmeents to reconnect during my trip to Kansas City. That college friend is now my husband, Dean. We keep the thank you note on our lving room desk as a reminder that gratitude and appreciation are what brought us and keep us togehter.

Not every thank you has a dramatic outcome. We don’t always know the impact of our appreciation on the person we thank. But the appreciation we express and the gratitide we feel are the bonding agents of our business and personal relationships.

Appreciation and gratitude are also what make us Rotarians in Service Above Self. When I get boxed in, wondering if my efforts are appreciates, I think about someone I’d like to thank and act on that thought. Whether I know their reposne or not -now or at some unknown time in the future – doesn’t really matter. By focusing on thier kindness and actions, I  let go of my wondering and reconnect with my gratitude. And being grateful for what I have brings out my best self, which makes my Service Above Self possible.

Come to think of it, now’s a good time to thank Ruth again, and a Rotarian or two.

So I’m wondering…who have you thanked lately?


PDG Elizabeth

Ways to Thank Outside the Box

Thank the “Quiet Heroes” in Your Commuunity:

Last year I attended a meeting of the St. Joseph Rotary Club 32 at which the club members recognized nurses’ aides from local nursing homes. The club made their lunch meeting special by recognizing each nurse’s aide with a certificate and flowers and by inviting each aide’s manager to attend. This appreciation had a deep impact on the nurse’s aides, who normally are not thanked and appreciated in this way.  Are there unrecognized heroes in your community that your club can thank?

Incorporate Appreciative Inquiry into Your Next Club Asssembly:

Appreciative inquiry is a planning process that emphasizes what an organization does well and builds on those strengths. It can be a useful component of a club assembly. Start by asking club members about a time when they’ve been most proud of being a club member, and ask them to share that event or situation.  Appreciative  inquiry allows your club members to connect with their best selves to make the club better. An overview of Appreicative Inquiry is available on the District 6040 website at www.rotary6040.org. Or contact Elizabeth at eusovicz@kc.rr.com for a copy.

Thank a Rotarian:

Your mother was right: a thank yo goes a long way. Think about a membe rof your club who has done something, or continually does something, that you appreciate, but whom you’ve never thanked. Why not write them a note, or take the time during your next club meeting to thank them?

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