The simple act of saying thank you

Ruth - Bellingham, Washington
Entered on August 15, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: gratitude

I believe in saying thank you. I started teaching as a university professor in 2003. At the end of that academic year, I received my first student card. She spent her first quarter at the university in one of my classes and took the time to write me a note thanking me for the class and my teaching – I was stunned (and a little embarrassed) to receive that. She knew I liked Elvis and found an Elvis sticker to put on the envelope, which made me laugh. Since then, I have received many thank you cards and gifts from students. More important than what they are is what they say… some challenge me to keep doing what I do, some identify how I have made a difference, others just simply say “thank you”.

Each time I receive one of these messages, it still surprises me, but also delights me. Perhaps more difficult is what it reminds me of. When I was a student, I never told a professor thank you – even when they made a life-changing difference for me. To this day, I don’t know exactly why I didn’t … perhaps I just assumed it was their job and that thanks were not necessary?

After receiving the first card, I realized how much it meant to receive that message. I learned a lesson that day, an important one. The simple act of saying thank you…

I sent thank you letters to the faculty I could find who made a difference – some of them 10 years after we last met. Even though this started with a lesson taught to me by a student in a university setting and I first practiced it with my former university professors, I also came to understand how important it is to apply to all aspects of my life. With time, I have learned the absolute wonder of these two words. They are words that can be extremely meaningful, but the meaning can change. It can mean, you did what you were supposed to (thank you), or you went above and beyond and I appreciate it (thank you), or wow – I really needed help and didn’t realize it (thank you), or you are very special (thank you), and sometimes the underlying meaning is too complex to state simply, except by saying… thank you.

In a world where we have to interact with each other, where our success is linked to others, where we need help to accomplish and finish, where we are enriched by being with others – we just can’t find success without others. For that, we all deserve to be told “Thank you”.

For me, there are times when those thank you notes from students are what keep me going, they make me happy, proud, laugh, and cry… but always let me know that I helped. The thank you messages are important and so easy to do. I do believe in saying thank you.