Thanksgiving is more than ...

Yesterday, two friends each sent me emails each focused on different aspects of giving thanks and expressing gratitude.

Thanksgiving is more than a feeling.

Bill Kinnon sent me a Go-To-Market Strategies piece called - When did you last say "Thank You" to a customer? . They offer this word of advice.

Make it personal. You should hand write it. We know...UGH. That's a lot of work. You may be tempted to email your thank you...and maybe you should do that too. BUT, a handwritten, old fashioned thank you note, will take you farther. Why? Because NO ONE else is doing it in today's business world. Also, be as specific about what you are thanking them for, as that makes it much more relevant and genuine. But do not ask for anything in your "thank you." Just be thankful!

This is not just a good idea, but a good thing to do. Today, drop into a local bookstore and buy a box of note cards. Back at the office, take a half-an-hour and write the notes and put them in the mail today. Act quickly as you can to tangibly express gratitude.

Thanksgiving is more than social etiquette.

Tom Morris sent me a link to this NY Times review - Gratitude's Grace Can Be Itself a Gift - of Margaret Visser's The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude.

“The Gift of Thanks” is a scholarly, many-angled examination of what gratitude is and how it functions in our lives. Gratitude is a moral emotion of sorts, Ms. Visser writes, one that is more complicated and more vital than we think.

English speakers are obsessed with the terms “thanks” or “thank you.” We often say these words more than 100 times a day, she writes, in a flurry that many other cultures find baffling.

The notion that we should thank others is not hard-wired into our brains, but learned from our parents. For a child, she writes, “the first unprompted ‘thank you’ is momentous enough to count as a kind of initiation into a new level of human consciousness.” In people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, little words like “thanks,” she notes, “often survive the shipwreck of all other memories.”

I've not read her book. I look forward to it.

Gratitude needs to be a tangible way to create openness and a mutuality of the affections of gratitude. Read this excerpt from her book. It shows me that gift giving as an expression of thanks is too often a covering up of genuine feelings and tangible actions.

Today, we use paper to cover our gifts, and it is not primarily because they are in need of protection that we wrap them. If we mail a gift, we first carefully wrap it in special "gift" paper — the prettier, the better — and then enclose it, as a safeguard during the journey, in something sturdy and commonplace like brown paper or a plain envelope. Gift wrappings are folded with care. The string that binds a mere parcel becomes, for a gift, a ribbon, often with bows and rosettes added — anything to replace with embellishment the toughness of workaday knots. Extra trouble is taken because of the need to declare that, whatever it is, the thing thus enclosed is not a commodity.

A gift nowadays has almost invariably been bought. As such, it is certainly a commodity, but one that is summoned now to become something else. The wrapping is a sign that the object has changed into a gift. When, on increasingly rare occasions, we give something we ourselves have made — edible gifts mostly, such as jams and chutneys and cakes — we often feel little compulsion to wrap them. We occasionally enfold but fail to hide them, by covering them in something revealing such as cellophane. Not hiding by wrapping means that this present was not bought in a shop. It was made to be given away, not to make money; it does not need, therefore, to be converted into a gift.

We do work at shopping, however, quite apart from having first saved the money to buy gifts. As Christmas draws closer, we spend time fighting our way daily through the shopping crowds, returning from each expedition exhausted, with arms weighed down and aching feet. And we complain. Christmas has gotten out of hand, we say. It has become too commercialized. We are all so greedy, so demanding, and so exigent nowadays. It really is too much. These objections may be true, but our struggles and complaints mean in part that the gifts we have bought have manifestly cost us trouble. We may not actually have made them, but everyone is aware — our own grumbling making sure it is understood — that work, freely undertaken, went into their acquisition.

Thanksgiving is more than feelings, more than social etiquette, more than a public display of our own magnanimity.

It is the appreciation and recognition of the impact of other people upon our lives with the hope that its expression is mutual. When it is, that is when the real transformative power of gratitude has the potential strengthen families, communities and even businesses. It is for this reason that we should Say Thanks Every Day.