Thanks to Those Rarely Thanked

“Thank you” is often forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sure we say it as part of our auto-reply when taking the receipt from a clerk at the checkout line, or as we are handed our dry cleaning…but do we mean it? Do we feel the gratitude as we say the words? Do we make eye contact and say it with heart?

Then, of course, there are the services and utilities that we take for granted, especially in the U.S.  People who work long hours so that we don’t even notice that life is running smoothly. No, we usually notice when things don’t go right. And when that happens, we’re quick to lodge a complaint and demand someone “right” the “wrong.”

My mom once said, “Everyone will notice if your windows are dirty and no one will notice if they’re clean. But they will admire the view.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the view, about the things that I appreciate and who is responsible for that. I want to say thank you to those who do thankless jobs. I even thought about poor customer service call center representatives who only get calls when there is a problem and even though it’s not their fault personally, they take the brunt of a stranger’s anger and frustration. That has to be emotionally exhausting and the main reason that industry has such a high employee turnover.

Yesterday I posted on social media asking folks to offer up suggestions. I received some awesome responses including: 911 operators, criminal case judges, veterans in nursing homes and hospitals, checkers at grocery stores, hospital volunteers, nurses, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers, volunteers at battered women’s shelters, caregivers at assisted living homes, Girl Scout and Boy Scout leaders, postal workers and garbage collectors.

At first this list was overwhelming. So many people at so many organizations, even just locally, was a daunting task. Heck, looking up the Huntington Beach’s Superior Court website and I read a list of 130 judges’ names. Then I wondered how would I get names at other organizations. I’m fairly certain the names of CASA volunteers aren’t public for a reason. It was daunting.

I took a few deep breaths, grounded myself and looked again at the list. I recalled the story of the starfish who were stranded at low tide and the person who chose to throw them back into the water, one by one. This samaritan was told that there’s no way one person could make an impact. The response, “It makes a difference to this one” as (s)he threw it into the ocean. I realized, I don’t have to send a thank you to all of them. I can send it to some of them. I just need to pick a few.

I put the garbage collectors and postal person on the side to leave them cold bottles of water and a thank you when they come through. As for case judges and veterans, I set them aside too, to find a way to make an impact there at a later date. I want to give those groups more dedicated focus and effort.

For the remaining, I looked up one local organization for each suggestion and wrote a letter to the department in the hopes that it will be either passed around or put up in a break room for individuals to see. I also don’t want credit for it, so I signed them all with “A Thankful Citizen.” Each note was customized to the specific work that they do that is both impactful and appreciated. I hope it brings a smile to their faces and a warmth to their heart to make their workload a little lighter.

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