This morning, I was moved by a letter written by someone I don't know, addressed to a team of doctors I never met.
The letter itself is poignant and well-written, but that is not what most affected me. What got to me was my own guilty realization that I have such a note to write, and it's sixteen years overdue.
My to-do list is littered with unrealized good intentions. It's less an agenda than a menu. Each morning, I try to choose well from the Activity Buffet. But, inevitably, there's stuff left on my plate at the end of the day. I pack up the leftovers with care, dutifully copying them to tomorrow's list.
A gourmet meal will grow moldy in the back of the refrigerator, given time. And that's what's happened to me. Over time, a gratitude backlog has developed.
Overall, I think an ambitious to-do list is a good thing. Our "reach should exceed our grasp", and all that. But it can also be a psychic drain; emotional clutter gaining cobwebs and casting spooky shadows in one's mind.
If I accomplished one tenth of what I list, I'd be a much better person. I owe a wedding gift to a couple who have had their second child. There is the family that moved here three years ago, whom I keep meaning to invite to welcome to the neighborhood. I have a pile of e-mails and blog comments to answer.
And then there are the thank-you-notes.
I'm not perfect about thank-you-notes for the tangible gifts and favors I receive, but I do try. I do my best to make sure my children do this, and do it well. It's mostly under control.
But, there is a pile of unacknowledged appreciation that festers in the periphery of my consciousness. Sometimes, the most heart-felt and deep thanks are the most difficult to express.
What could be acknowledged in a timely sweet note, swells by neglect into a long letter, perhaps with a few photos, to a token - and then large - and then significant gift to the person, or to a charity in that person's name... It grows from something doable to the chronic ache of failure.
It's possible to wallow in "why haven't I done it" indefinitely. But, let's not.
Instead, it's time to try something ELSE. Then new question is "If not now when?"
And the answer is: The fourth Thursday of the month. (Just like the American Thanksgiving holiday.)
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Let's collect and share some accomplishment in this area, inspiring and motivating one another to make a dent in the thank-you-note pile.
Here are some rules/guidelines:
- Submissions can be about thanking, being thanked, or the delivery of thanks.
- The "object" of the gratitude should be a person, or more than one person. Not an object, not an animal, and not an idea or fictional character. (Although, it's within the rules to address the author/creator of ideas and/or characters.) The person can be living or dead.
- Humor is welcome, but, please, nothing sarcastic. Real thanks only, not backhanded or snarky insults. Ironic and frivolous thanks are fine. Mean and hateful are not.
- Sharing the gratitude with the actual personal, if possible, is optional, but encouraged. It's also okay to post about how it felt to give overdue thanks, or reactions to receiving them.
- Let's stipulate that there are plenty of reasons to thank G-d, and leave Him off the recipient list. While it's okay to mention being grateful to the Almighty in passing, the point of this carnival is to work on our relationships with other people, and to work up the courage to express gratitude to people.
- Submissions can be in the form of a thank you note, a blog post about thanking someone, a relevant picture, or anything else linkable that fits within the guidelines.
- What else? Ideas?
So, what do you think? Will you join in? Let's get this stuff off the back-burner and serve it up!
The first carnival's deadline for submission is Monday, August 25, 2008, with the first edition scheduled for Thursday, August 28, 2008.