This afternoon I finished reading A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life. I found it a week or so ago while browsing Barnes & Noble. I went in that day not expecting to make a purchase-I generally find B&N to be drastically overpriced. I was just going to take a quick inventory of the hottest books out before heading down to Strand in Union Square and purchasing the same books at half the price.
As I was browsing, John Kralik’s story of inspiration was displayed at a Bargain Priced table. I passed over it once before doubling back. When was the last time I read an uplifting positive book? I couldn’t remember. I read the back and found this.
One recent December, John Kralik found his life at a frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful divorce; he had grown distant from his children; and overall, his life dreams seemed to have slipped beyond reach. Inspired by a note his ex-girlfriend had sent to thank him for a gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful for what he had by writing thank-you notes…Immediately after sending his very first notes, significant and surprising benefits began to come John’s way…
Like myself, it appears that John had found himself at a crossroads of sorts. He was facing complex issues that didn’t have easy answers. While I don’t have his issues (thank God), I have been dealing with challenges of my own. Encouragement is not always easy to come by in a world such as this, where everyone has their own crosses they bare; we all have played that game where we compare who’s cross is bigger, heavier, uglier, etc. It’s certainly not the healthiest, but it has a unification quality to it that lets us all know we’re in the struggle together.
Kralik was tired of that game. His desperation led to him seeking significant change in an idea as simple as a thank you note. A lesson his grandfather taught him early on was as follows:
“When I was about five, my grandfather gave me a silver dollar. It was about 1960 and if you really wanted to wow a child in those days, you gave him or her a silver dollar…He promised that if I wrote him a letter thanking him for this silver dollar, he would send me another one. That was the way thank-you letters worked, he told me.”
Throughout Kralik’s journey, that was indeed how the thank you letters worked. Sometimes Kralik had the satisfaction of making someone‘s day with the thank you notes; others, he had monetary compensation to show for his small gestures of gratitude. Over the course of the year, Kralik’s life did change-positivity despite adversity reigned supreme. He sent letters for things as small as thanking the Starbucks barista for remembering his name, to as big as appreciating his clients for paying their attorney fees on time. On one particular day, after a rough afternoon with lawyers regarding a case filed against him, Kralik picked his 7-year old daughter up from school. The next morning he left a thank you note on her bed that she saved for years after. One of my favorite letters he wrote reads as follows:
Thank you for being cheerful and happy when I pick you up in the evening. Sometimes I don’t have a very fun day, but when I see you and we talk about things and have fun, I feel better. Thank you for being the best daughter ever.
This letter may have especially touched me because I remember once upon a time I was a 7-year old daughter, living with her father who was going through a divorce and struggling to start his own business. I came home one day after school in October and found a signed card from my own father wishing me the best Sweetest Day ever. Today I still have that card.
I am not ready to pledge to write 365 thank you notes; it’s a tremendous undertaking that I do not want to commit to right now. However, the biggest lesson I am taking away from this story is to make a more conscious effort to be the bearer of good news in the world. Thank you notes will become more commonplace with me, less of a rarity, as will compliments, speaking good things into existence and keeping my head centered in a positive place. This is my pledge for the next 365 days and beyond.
Thank you John Kralik.