From the time we learn to talk, we’re taught to say thank you. In the course of any day we might say it dozens of times for little things, like someone holding an elevator door or serving us in the cafeteria. It’s the polite thing to do. But how often in your life have you said thank you with purpose? What I mean by that is taking the time to reflect on the people who have made a difference in your life in a deep and meaningful way and telling them how they’ve made a difference.
Most people working in healthcare entered their fields because they want to make a difference and yet many go about their days carrying out dozens of acts of kindness without any expectations about receiving accolades. They are becoming part of the patients’ life stories and have no idea they’re making lifelong memories. They may never hear it but their work is carried in the hearts and memories of their patients. What if every person in your organization was suddenly presented with a roster of all the people they had touched and would know how valuable they are and what a difference they are making? There would be such a surge in their connection to purpose that you’d feel the energy shift.
The problem is, we don’t share these stories often enough. We think about how someone touched our lives, but don’t let them know. And that’s a shame.
This past January my mom passed away. She had been an English teacher and directed high school plays and musicals, and I can never forget that it was she who made me learn her pronouns list every evening, and for which, I’m grateful for. In the course of her work, she had touch thousands of lives. As people streamed through her visitation and funeral we heard story after story from former students and musical cast members about how she had helped to shape their lives. How she sparked something in them that helped them to see the world differently or believe in themselves. These stories were a wonderful comfort to all of us and affirmed that her memory would be kept alive, not only through us, her children, but through all the people she had influenced.
Mom always had a strong connection to purpose, so I’m confident that she knew that she had made a difference, but it meant the world to her when someone from her past would call, visit, or send a letter expressing their gratitude and sharing their stories. She’d tell me about these calls and visits out of the blue and we’d talk about what a gift it was to hear their stories. Their calls, letters, and visits were a validation of the legacy she’d be leaving behind. I often thought that the universe was nudging these former student’s to say thank you while she was still alive so that she could see the fruits of her labor. It was as if they were writing the final chapter for her. She had shared her gifts with her students, and they in turn gave her the gift of their gratitude. The circle was complete.
This is the time of year when we reflect more about our many blessings. There is someone you need to thank. If you can’t do it face-to-face, send a letter or make a call. Don’t just think about it. Do it. You’ll feel more complete and you’ll be making a difference in the life of someone else.