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Thanks for Everything

[日期:2006-06-26]   [字体: ]

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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."

"It's rare that we receive this kind of thanks," fire department lieutenant Bobby McKinzie said. "We were glad to have a part in her life. Today she's definitely touched ours."

Maybe we are so used to being served by professionals that we forget to thank the teacher, police officer, doctor, firefighter or preacher who goes out of the way to help us. Maybe we need to be more creative in showing our thanks.

In the novel I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Margaret Craven tells of a young minister, Mark Brian, who is sent by his bishop to a remote parish of Kwakiutl Indians in British Columbia. The Indians, he is told, do not have a word for thank you. But Brian soon finds that these people have exceptional generosity. Instead of saying thanks, it is their custom to return every favor with a favor of their own, and every kindness with an equal or superior kindness. They do their thanks.

I wonder if we had no word in our vocabulary for thank you, would we do a better job of communicating our gratitude? Would we be more responsive, more sensitive, more caring?

As the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony faced their second winter in 1621, they had much to be grateful for. Their efforts to raise barley and peas had been disappointing, and they would have faced starvation, but thanks to an Indian named Squanto, whom Gov. William Bradford called "a special instrument of God," they had harvested 20 acres of corn. Squanto had also helped the settlers keep peace with neighboring tribes.

So when it was decided to celebrate the harvest and thank God, Governor Bradford sent a messenger to Chief Massasoit, inviting the Indians to whom they were so indebted.

Massasoit brought 90 men with him, and they celebrated for three days. Squanto, who spoke English, helped the Indians and Pilgrims communicate, but food and drink were the language of their thanksgiving festivities. And they were enjoyed to the fullest.

Thankfulness sets in motion a chain reaction that transforms people all around us -- including ourselves. For no one ever misunderstands the melody of a grateful heart. Its message is universal; its lyrics transcend all earthly barriers; its music touches the heavens.
 

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