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Of all the holidays, in theory, Thanksgiving is my favorite. The food is OK I guess, but even more so, I love this idea that we’re all going to sit back and say, “Wow, I’m really grateful for what makes up my life.”
The thing is, I don’t know that I’ve actually done this in a meaningful way in the past. Most of that Thursday is typically spent cleaning, cooking, traveling, trying to find matching socks for my young sons. When we finally get around to the dinner, it goes by in a rush of passing platters and wishing I hadn’t worn such a thick sweater that day. Then it’s good-bye to family and friends, and coats and gloves and all any of us can think about, really, is snuggling in bed, with the promise of sleeping in the next day.
This year will be different.
Most of you already know my story: a few months back I turned 40, went in for my first mammogram, and was diagnosed with cancer. A double mastectomy and relatively smooth recovery later, I’m stunned by how lucky I’ve been. So this year, yes, I’m thankful for my health. But to my surprise, that’s not the biggest dose of gratitude I’m basking in.
The thing is, when something scary happens to you, all the people who care about you, from your past and present, make themselves known. I could never have anticipated the lengths to which this occurred, and how much it would mean to me.
People sent cards, flowers, and chocolate (like you would not believe!). My work friends held a fundraiser and told me, Do not hurry back. They made meals for our family. Complete strangers offered to help with the laundry and yard work. Friends I haven’t seen in months or years came to visit.
My very busy girlfriends and I committed to seeing one another more often, and we’ve actually kept with it. My brother, who I wish I was closer with, has become my text buddy. My neighbor and I now walk together in the mornings. I’ve met more of the families in our neighborhood for our kids to play with. It’s all been awesome.
Strangely, I hadn’t realized how disconnected I’d become, until I reconnected.
And for each act of kindness, I’ve done my very best to write a personal thank you card in return. It’s a small, simple task. But I’ve come to find that it’s a powerful one.
Here’s how it goes: You sit down. You grab a pretty card. You think of something wonderful that a wonderful person has done for you. That person felt good doing that wonderful thing. You felt good when that person did that wonderful thing for you. Now you feel good again just thinking about it. You feel good writing about it. You experience all sorts of feel good endorphins just putting the card in its envelope, addressing it, stamping it, popping it in the mailbox.
A couple days pass, and you feel good knowing that person is soon going to get a nice card from you. Then the mail is delivered. That person feels good just receiving mail that isn’t a bill, or a holiday catalogue. They read the note, and they feel good knowing you feel good.
It’s this crazy magical exponential goodness math that I think is called love.
So here’s my plan, and I hope you’ll join me.
I’m going to make a more concerted effort to reach out to people, to connect with them. I’m going to be that crazy person who tells people, “Hey, I love you.” (Our mailman is going to be so freaked out!) I’m going to do good things for the people around me.
And I’m going to send hand-written notes to all these wonderful folks and spread love like the magical thing it is so that more people feel it, more often, and I will too.
And through it all, I’m going to populate the world with those very special words: thank you.
Happy Thanksgiving. And thank you for spending this time with me!
Show your loved ones you’re thankful for them this holiday season with healthy dessert recipes that come from the heart. Checkout our free holiday cookbook.
Erin Gadd is the director of public relations for the Parma City School District and writes the “Mommy Wars” column for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. You can connect with her on her blog at erinlgadd.wordpress.com.