When I was a little girl, I wrote a letter to Tom Wopat from the
Dukes of Hazzard. I don't remember
exactly what it said, but it was something about how I liked him
and watched him on TV every Friday night.
About a year later I remember finding a patch that said
it. I didn't know anybody named Fran, so I decided to mail it
to Fran Tarkenton, host of That's
Incredible! (also a football player, but I didn't
know that when I was a little girl).
There was no ulterior motive behind these letters; I just really
wanted these guys to know that I liked them. These memories
stay with me because it was fun and exciting to reach out; it felt
good to share my feelings simply because I was having them.
That is what the thank you note is supposed to be; a vehicle
that allows us to tell people how much we appreciate them.
But somewhere along the way the note became an obligation,
something we have to do.
I think thank you notes are great, I still write them
occasionally, but I do not feel tied to the formality of the
traditional thank you note.
Sometimes I prefer to send an email to let people know I
appreciate their gift, or maybe I will send a picture of my
daughter playing with a toy that was given.
Sometimes I pick up the phone to say thank you, or I post a
message on Facebook or use text to let friends and family know I am
thinking about them.
To me, gratitude isn't about the how, it's about the
why. It's the intention behind the message, the
card, or the wall post. If it's authentic you can feel the
love, and if its obligation you can feel the obligation. Real
gratitude is not about reciprocity, but about giving of yourself
just because you want to.
In recent years I have returned to my "childlike" letter writing
and reached out to some special people. Email has made this
so much easier and less time consuming, so I tend to do it
I recently emailed Marianne
article that I wrote about her a few months ago. I
emailed Sarah McLachlan to tell her how much I enjoyed her recent
interview in Yoga
Journal. I emailed Rabbi Rami Shapiro, a
columnist for Spirituality
and Health Magazine, to tell him that I think his
advice is down to earth and beautifully written.
One of my favorite gratitude experiences involves Debra Gilbert
Rosenberg, author of
The New Mom's Companion and
Motherhood Without Guilt. After my
first daughter was born, Debra's
New Mom book was one of the only
things that soothed me, and I felt compelled to reach out and let
To my surprise, she wrote back, and she happened to live 10
miles away in Oak Park. We met for lunch, talked writing, and
she asked me to join her writing group. The experience led to
me writing on a consistent basis, starting an online newsletter,
and eventually writing the articles that turned into my book.
It also led to a few articles in Chicago
Parent and eventually this blog column. One
message of heartfelt thanks led to a completely new joy-filled
career, not to mention a wonderful mentor and friend (thank you,
So sometimes gratitude shifts our life, and sometimes it just
makes us feel good in the moment.
But either way, it impacts the world. Can you imagine what
it would be like if everyone decided to offer thanks and
appreciation on a daily basis? Not to seek something in
return, but simply for the shear joy of expressing it?
Tom Wopat must have felt my joy 30 years ago, because 8 months
after I sent my letter, an autographed picture arrived. It
said, To Cathy, thank you for the support!
By that time I didn't even watch Dukes of
Hazzard, I had moved onto Ricky Schroder and
Silver Spoons, but I did keep the
picture. I appreciated Tom's gratitude.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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