I take classes at an organizational development Firm in Southern Maine. The subjects covered ranged from conflict resolution, supervisory skills and over the years the classes have morphed in to a series of classes spanning over six months that dig deep in to inspirational leadership and direct management. I received a call from one of the owners of the firm about a week prior to an upcoming class. He asked if I would be interested in coming up with an activity for my group, about eight of my peers. I said yes before he even finished asking but without knowing what I would do.
Monday, April 15th, 2013. I was home from work. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts you were likely off from work observing Patriots Day (a day to commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord NOT the Patriot’s football team). Throughout the afternoon and evening images of the Boston Marathon bombings were being splashed all over the television and internet. In the midst of tragedy a soft, but poignant reminder was being shared online, a quote from the television personality Mr. Rogers,
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,
my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.
You will always find people who are helping”.
Something clicked. That was it. Every day we hear someone being mocked on radio or television, we find ourselves being irritated with something someone said or did. We wonder how our spouses could be so forgetful or our coworkers so rude. It seems easier to remember the negative, pick on the bad and harder to recall when someone did something nice, spoke kind words or touched us.
That was my exercise. I went into my class armed with blank thank-you cards and stamped envelopes. I explained to everyone what I have shared here and how I came across this quote. I went on in greater detail about how most of the time when someone does something nice, takes time out of their busy schedule to talk to us or lend us an ear we sometimes take it for granted and, I believe, more often than not we do not really understand the impact of a person’s kindness until after the moment passes.
I tasked my peers to think of a person that did or said something that had an impact on them. I told them it could be big or small. It could be someone that they knew well or someone they had only met once. I asked the group to come up with a person that they would thank, what they would say and share why it had such an impact on them.
The stories that were shared were personal and transformational. Some recalled moments from their childhood while another woman talked about how she would thank her mother’s hairdresser. She explained how her mother was diagnosed with Lupus and she could not be with her when she made the decision to cut all her hair off. She said that her mother’s hairdresser gave her confidence and support that she could not. She said she would thank that woman and tell her what her time and words did for her mom.
I learned more about my coworkers in that hour than I had in the five years we had worked together. I also learned that there is so much to be thankful for- not just things, but people. It is important to thank and appreciate people. While listening to all of the stories, some funny and others emotional, I thought of two more people that deserved to be thanked for the moment, the time and the impact they had on my life.
We enable behaviors every day. This is an opportunity to enable good behaviors and perpetuate them. Take the time to thank someone. Do not wait. Thank them today and make your thank-you personal.