A few years ago I learned something that has changed my life. Maybe it has changed the lives of others too, at least a bit. What I learned was a simple kind of “thank you” that turns out to make a big difference.
I learned about this simple “thank you” from Howard E. Butt, Jr. when he was president of the H.E. Butt Foundation, where I worked for seven years. During that stretch of time, I regularly met with Howard in a variety of settings, including his home, restaurants, and Laity Lodge. If we were at a restaurant, Howard would do something that I had rarely done in the past. At the end of the meal, Howard would quite intentionally find our waiter, look him or her right in the face, and thank him or her, usually mentioning specific things that the waiter had done. Howard always expressed some version of, “Thank you for your work.” That’s it. Like I said, it’s a simple “thank you.”
Over the years, I watched the response from those whom Howard thanked. A few seemed embarrassed or uninterested. But the vast majority of those Howard thanked were obviously moved. It mattered to them that Howard had paid attention to them and their work. And they were touched by his expression of gratitude. Occasionally, the person being thanked would have tears in his or her eyes. I got the feeling that this person didn’t receive thanks like this very often.
In the last several years, I have learned to imitate Howard’s exercise of simple thanksgiving. Now, at first, this was not easy for me because I am by nature not someone who speaks to strangers. But as I stretched myself in order to thank people who served me, I soon discovered the reward of seeing people feel appreciated and valued. Yes, I do this as a way of affirming others and their work. But, frankly, I think I get as much joy from this practice as those who receive my thanks.
I’m sure many of my readers already do this. You may even think it strange that I’m talking about this as if it’s something unusual. But, I believe that many of us have not developed the habit of expressing simple gratitude. We haven’t had this modeled for us by someone like Howard Butt. Doing so will make a big difference to those you appreciate. And it will make a big difference in your life as well. Beyond that, who knows? But wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where people felt regularly seen and valued for their work?