I originally picked out this theme for 2012, but scrapped it after my rocky start to the year. Now when I think about how it derived it’s kind of amusing that it came from reading a book . . . title. Yep, just the title: 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Gratitude Changed My Life. I’ve tried to be a decent thank-you note writer for most of adulthood, but I was charmed by the idea of writing a thank you note every single day, especially the thought of reaching back into the past to thank people for things they may not even know they did for me. (Not that I know if the author John Kralik did that — I’d probably have to read the book for that.)
Despite the charm of writing a thank you note a day, I did not actually resolve to do that. In January, that seemed like too tall an order with the new demands of teaching two classes. Good decision. Instead I decided that every Sunday I would reflect on the week and think about who I could reach out to in thanks. I started to take a little package of stationery to church and write cards or envelopes as thoughts came to me. Sometimes I look around in Sunday School — at least 100 of us meet in our cavernous chapel — and think about those who have made a difference in my life. And then I try to tell them. I think this is one of the best things about coming back to this old, familiar place after a decade or more away.
Of course, my main concern with selecting this theme was the stamp costs. Don’t worry, spreadsheets were made. Cost-benefit analyses were conducted to determine the effectiveness of email notes vs. postcards vs. envelope-card combinations. (It’s possible my spreadsheet usage will someday be a diagnosable mental illness.) In the end, I decided to just go with the flow. An emailed thank you may not be as elegant or delightful as an envelope in the mail, but it’s better than keeping an expression of gratitude trapped in my mind. Still, I have probably managed to mail out at least 30 or 40 cards since the new year so . . . awesome, right?
When I first conceptualized this one-word theme, the foregoing is all I had in mind. But something happened in November that made me realize I was missing a huge piece of the gratitude puzzle. It’s always been relatively easy for me to give thanks to the people around me; their kindness and generosity is so obvious, so present. Thanking God, on the other hand, is a much more difficult feat. If I could write a thank you note and mail it, I absolutely would. But it seems He wants me to talk to Him . . . as if He’s there, listening. Prayer, then, is part of how He wants my gratitude and it’s a thing that I’ve struggled with for . . . ever.
This topic could shoot off in a thousand directions and encompass my whole life story, but instead, I’ll just say that I decided on two concrete activities to try and give more thanks to God. First, I’m trying to pray more (and differently) than I ever have before. That thing that happened in November (which was kind of like a crazy-intense therapy session, but not exactly) set me off in a new direction of how to try and actually talk to God. I’m sorry to say I probably only manage it once a week, but I’m okay with being a work in progress (I better be, since that is all we ever are). Second, I’ve started keeping a journal again. I call it a one-sentence journal to take the pressure off, but let’s be honest, I have rarely said a single sentence about anything in my entire life. Influenced by my friend Victoria, a challenge from my mom, and this great talk from President Eyring (which I was struck by at the time he gave it, but never did anything about), I have focused this journal on answering the questions, Did God have a message for me today? Have I seen the hand of God in my life?
Thus far I have 11 entries in my journal. That’s almost a message from God a week! Most of them were just for me and their influence probably went no further. But every once in a while, those messages from God helped me make a difference to someone who was suffering, and there is nothing I feel more gratitude for than that. So thanks.