The Gratitude Card
On Feb. 25 2011 I decided to open up some snail-mail that had sat on my counter for a few weeks. As it kept piling up I just kept putting it off. Funny how I would never let half a day go by before checking my email, texts or even my Facebook. Yet I let this snail mail sit on my counter like it was yesterday’s news. Who really uses snail mail for anything important these days anyways? As I flipped through the envelopes I came across one from a friend. Knowing our daughters are in the same class at school I assumed it would be some sort of invitation. A birthday party, a baby shower for a YB mom or possibly an invite to a gathering she is hosting. I tossed it to the side assuming I would have to get out my calendar and find time for yet another obligation. Already feeling like too much was on my plate I decided to ignore the envelope for the moment. I finished looking through the small stack of snail-mail and almost walked away.
Stopping short, I realized I would see my friend in a couple of hours when we picked up our girls. I’d have to face her asking if I got the invite and would have to admit I did but didn’t open it. The fact that it sat on my counter for possibly 3 weeks was bad enough! “Go back and open it!” I told myself.
Inside I found a card. The cover picture featured two lady dogs sitting down at a little round table with cups of tea. Ignoring how cute the picture was I started drawing conclusions for a reason the card was send to me... maybe it is some sort of a lady gathering? I opened it up and noticed it was a hand written note. Right away I scanned my brain for a reason for a hand written note... did I give her a gift recently? We are not car pooling so no recent act of service on my part. Curious to find out the reason I read the note.
I just want to thank you for all you do. You are such a good friend and an amazing mom. I’m so glad we’ve had an opportunity to get to know each other better over the last 2 years. I’m very grateful to have you in my life!”
My friend signed it and that was it.
Wait, that’s it? I even turned the card around to find the hidden bill. I read again to make sure I did not miss the real reason for the card. Where’s the small print? Really? It was a thank you card for... just being... me? For being a friend? A card of gratitude for nothing more than getting to know someone better? Right away my heart got this warm and fuzzy feeling. My lips curved up with a smile. Showing gratitude is a powerful thing. For both the one giving it and the one receiving it. In an instant it can draw two people closer like it did for me and my friend. And I also felt a little ashamed that my opening it had to come with all these false internal accusations.
So now I’m going to admit something to you. This is not my strong point, showing gratitude out of the blue. I love to encourage others and thank people face to face... I’ll even call or e-mail when someone comes into my brain to tell them I’m praying for them. But saying the words “Thank You” when it’s not convenient to do so? How often do I go out of my way to send a message of gratitude for the simple reason of being grateful? I’ll tell you, not often enough. And I miss the blessings of doing so.
When Jesus healed 10 leopards (Luke 17:11-19) you can imagine that ALL TEN were ecstatic, grateful beyond measure as they ran back to the city they had been ostracized from, eager to see the families they had been separated from because of this horrible disease. Can you imagine being on that path, each step not being fast enough to return you to the life you were forced to leave behind? No time for snail-mail! Only one stopped in his tracks. He turned around, completely out of the way from his path home, and went back to Jesus to give him a message of gratitude. Not an over the shoulder remark that would seem much more convenient, but a real thank you from the heart. Only one did that.
Gifts are often taken for granted and seldom acknowledged. Especially the simple gift of friendship. Truth is you have probably forgotten to thank someone for a birthday or Christmas gift at some time yourself. I know I have! The proof is in the 3 packs of unopened thank you cards I purchased for 3 of my daughter’s past birthdays and the 3 packs from my son’s. Not this year! My husband, Farhad, had our daughter, Shirin, sit down and write those 8-year-old-birthday-party gratitude cards. The invitations to her party said that there was no need to bring a birthday gift because their gift to Shirin was simply celebrating with her. Because of that, the thank you cards were messages of gratitude for just being a friend. Sort of like the thank you I received from my friend. My daughter took so much pleasure in creating each card, making it special for every friend. The duty that her daddy gave her became a blessing to her in the process.
Most of us have enough “stuff” that we have lost the good sense to be truly grateful. One peek in my garage and you’ll see how much “stuff” is crowding out gratitude in my life. Good thing the gratitude card from my friend did not find it’s way in there before I opened it! And forget about the blessings of hardship or suffering... it is ingrained in our head that anything hard, or anything that hurts is to be hated and despised and gets in the way of our happiness. As a society we are completely blind to the good that comes from hardship and how God can use that time to grow us. The very last response would be gratitude.
Like the 9 leopards, after longing for something and hoping for it, man kind can loose the good sense of gratitude at the single drop of getting what we want. We tend to possess an, “it’s about time” attitude. Or a “I’ve waited long enough” spoiled child response and just run right back to our old ways... eager to get back to what we were doing before this snare in our happiness took place.
When I saw my friend at pick up I told her that I received her note and it meant so much. I also admitted that I had just opened it. She laughed and confirm it was sent weeks before. How many times had I seen her and she didn’t ask me about it? Not opening my mail sooner and almost walking away from the card completely came from a rotten place; a selfish and ungrateful heart condition. A place where convenience is priority. A place that avoids stepping out of my way or off my path, to make time for something or someone else. How thoughtless of me!
She also said, “I knew I wanted to send that and I’m so busy with work that I had to actually schedule a time to do it. I put it on my planner to write that.” My friend was the one leopard and I was one of the 9!
Reflecting on that day I can say that God really used my friend to speak to me about intentional gratitude. Too often we come across God in the same way I came across my friend’s gratitude card. First putting it off because after all, is there really something important to be found there? I can let a conversation with my maker take the back seat for days or weeks but would not let a week go by without watching an American Idol episode(It’s down to the final 3 for goodness sakes!) or catching up on the news(A beauty pageant-obsessed mom who jabs her 8-year-old daughter with Botox is of high importance!). Second, I can see gratitude in the wrong light. It might just require too much of me and my busy schedule. I have priorities you know! Finally, I’m a little fearful of the unknown. It could open a door to ask me to do something that I’m not ready to do or expose an area in my life I’d rather not be challenged in. When really, we open up the gift of prayer and find there are no hidden agendas but instead relationship and intimacy with our God.
Will you be the one to step off your convenient path? To be the one leopard that turns all the way around for true gratitude, causing a friend’s lips to curve up with a smile like mine did. It is good for the giver and the receiver. And even more importantly, will you abandon your misconceptions and internal accusations? Will you take time to thank God for all he has done, is doing and will do? To thank him for walking with you through the thick and thin, the good and bad, the peaks and valleys and for just being your God? In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 the Apostle Paul exhorts, “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I encourage you to open the gratitude card in your life and see what there is to find!