Expressing thanks can and does take many forms in the diversity of the human population. There is a part of our inner being that causes us to want to express gratitude toward those who have done something for us, meant something to us, impacted our life, or helped us along life’s way. Yet, the ways we give expression to this need for thanks giving are as unique as our personalities and DNA.
Let’s consider some of the ways the sharing of thanks takes form:
– Gift giving is a common means employed. The gift is symbolic of whatever gratitude needs to be acknowledged. People can spend vast amounts of time pondering just what the right gift should be. There’s a bit of risk here, because the spirit in which gifts are given and received are not always aligned. Gifts given with all sincerity can be overlooked or under appreciated, making the gesture fall short. As a rule, I think all gifts (even those that perplex the recipient) should be received with graciousness.
– Cards can be a frequent expression of gratitude. In cleaning out some files recently I discovered a whole group of cards and notes I’d received. Reading back through them was a trip down memory lane. I not only relived the event, but did so in connection with those with whom it was shared – those who sent the cards.
– Hand Written Notes might companion a card, giving it an even more personalized stature. Or such notes might be in place of a card. This medium is rare in today’s world where texts and instant messages have taken over. A hand written note conveys an investment of time and self that warms the heart. The notes that are homemade have carried special meaning for me – whether sent from a grandson or a friend.
– Verbal expressions are another means of thanks. These can be informal, as in “I want to tell you what that meant to me”, or formal – in the context of a speech or public acknowledgement. When shared interpersonally, face to face, such efforts span the chasm between people in a way I assume makes God smile.
– Acts of Kindness or Service make the list. Have you ever been taken out to eat as an expression of thanks? Had someone step in to take care of a chore or task that is usually yours? This type of thanks giving is a primary language for some.
– Bonuses or Monetary gestures are often employed in the business world. The intent is to show someone that their worth is valued, and their service acknowledged. These are practical, bottom line kinds of gestures which can be greatly appreciated and helpful. One hopes they are companioned by some of the softer expressions referenced above.
– Receptions, Parties, and Gatherings are also often used for such thankful sharing. We are social beings and find reasons for coming together around food and fellowship, to commemorate friendship and relationships that have built into our lives.
I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these imagined means of gratitude. I’m sure my list is not exhaustive either. The creativity of human beings continues to expand the ways we share thanks. What might you add to the list?
Before I leave the topic, however, let me share a couple of expressions in thanks giving that I find wanting:
– Reciprocity thanks giving. This is when one cannot allow an expression of thanks or kindness go unanswered, but feels an obligation to reciprocate. At it’s worst this become a cyclical circus, with both parties trying to keep track of who owes who a thank you. It’s like getting a “thank you” note for the “thank you” note that you sent. Part of the experience of gratitude is to graciously receive the thanks and let that be that.
– Farmed out thanks giving. This is the depersonalized means where you ask the secretary, or the spouse, to take care of your “thank you”. Are we really too busy, or too callous, leading us to go down the road of surrogate thanksgiving?
So, why the blog on this topic, you might ask? I’m glad you did. I find myself in a place where I have been receiving expressions of thanks giving (all appreciated by the way – nothing “farmed out”, in case you were wondering) and needing to express my own deep gratitude. The precipitating factor is my imminent transition from a pastoral position to a regional judicatory position. In other words, I’m in a leave taking mode. And as I take leave, I want to do so with grace, graciousness, and my own unique expressions of saying “thank you”.
In doing so I’ve tried out some of the aforementioned methods. Gift giving has never been my strong suit, but there is something there about finding a symbol that can be a lasting expression of gratitude. Still working on that one. Written words are my sweet spot (surprise!) and its tempting to just rely on this comfortable medium. Spoken verbal expression of thanks, I’m finding, is critical to the work of this time. Whether shared interpersonally, or congregationally, I (like the psalmist) discover I “need” to express thanks in this way. Acts of service has been my “go to” form of thanksgiving in life. Even if these acts have not always been understood, I knew what I was doing, and why.
So I will continue to work the process and explore the methods, even as I’m sure I will be exposed to others that come my way. Why? Because the ways we say thank you, diverse as they may be, are part of the critical work of community, and what it means to be shaped in the image of Jesus. When we dare to express thanks, we are bucking the trend of individualism in this lone ranger culture. We are acknowledging the other, who by their very presence in our life, makes us more complete as part of the Body of Christ. We are taking up what is sometimes called in scripture “one anothering” – love one another, care for one another, give thanks for one another. For as often as you do it unto the other, you do it unto Christ.
My journey with the First Baptist Church of Columbus has been a journey into and with a covenant community of faith. Not a perfect community. Not a community without work to do. But a community that has generously extended grace, patience, kindness and love to me and my family time and time again. I’m thankful for this messy group of Baptists with whom I’ve shared a good chapter of life and ministry. And I want them to know it.
What are the ways you give thanks?