Pastor Jack Mannschreck writes about his goal to write a thank-you note each day of the year and the four takeaways he learned from it.
REV. JACK MANNSCHRECK
Waterford: Central UMC
I absolutely love this time of the year. I often share with others that I love this season because, from the celebration of my birthday in late September through the festivities of Halloween and Thanksgiving, we are propelled toward the anticipation and excitement of Christmas. It’s a time of gathering with loved ones, eating special foods, and appreciating each other’s presence. I know it’s been challenging to maintain and nurture our relationships with family and friends during the pandemic. Still, we are blessed in this life, and we can only be thankful for what we have, not for what we lack and do not have.
In 2019, I challenged myself to write a thank-you note each day of the year—365 notes. Honestly, it took me nearly fourteen months to write a year’s worth of expressing thanks. A member of my former church inspired this journey of thankfulness. She told me of her endeavor of writing thank-you notes for each day of the year, which became a deeply spiritual journey of discovering all she was and is thankful for.
That conversation helped me to prepare for a time of deepening my spirituality and relationships with God and others. The journey began on January 1, 2019, with the very simple task of writing thank-you notes for Christmas gifts and to people who had joyfully served in the many programs and service opportunities during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
There was a lull late in February and March, and I found myself searching for people whose kindness, no matter how expressed, inspired me to share my gratitude. Things picked up during Lent and through the spring when programs were ending and it seemed appropriate to write once again notes for the gifts of kindness and time in service to our church community. I remember being caught up with my note-writing in June, but I fell behind again in the summer.
When you express gratitude, you recognize that another person has done something for you. You also affirm the kindness that has been extended to you. Expressing gratitude is a celebration of relationship! God is so good to us, and the beauty of the earth and the beauty of relationships proclaim that goodness and wonder.
I have four takeaways from my Year of Living Gratefully. First, living a life of thankfulness increases your “gratitude vocabulary.” Do you remember vocabulary tests from high school English classes? We not only had to spell the word correctly but also had to define it. So rather than simply writing “thank you,” you had to write about being blessed and grateful. You tell the person that you are thanking God for them.
The second takeaway is that you begin to look for and name all for which you are thankful. This is a wonderful opportunity for self-exploration. I even wrote thank-you notes for thank-you notes I had received! During the lulls in my experience, I found myself searching to express thankfulness for people who hadn’t done anything specifically for me but were intentional in their work and who obviously valued and cared for their customers, colleagues, and coworkers.
Third, it enhanced my prayer life as thanksgiving became more prominent in my daily devotions and prayer. I asked for God’s insight and wisdom while searching for opportunities to thank others.
Finally, I began to recognize the gratitude of others. I stopped for a cup of coffee in a little shop that I’d passed maybe a hundred times before. I sat and read a chapter in the book I was reading at the time and occasionally engaged in a conversation with the very gracious owner of the shop. I marveled at her cheerfulness and kind demeanor as she answered the phone, worked on the sweet treats offered in the shop, and waited on customers.
With Halloween and the midterm elections thankfully (pun intended) behind us, we will soon celebrate Thanksgiving and then enter the anticipation of the greatest gift God has offered His creation—our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. It’s a wonderful time of the year—to live a life of gratitude.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NIV).