Last week, I shared that the Gratitude Challenge for the week was to show gratitude to three people. Be intentional about it, and not just a compulsive "thank you" if somebody hands me something or blesses me when I sneeze. And this week's challenge was to share how I felt about it.
The first people I showed my gratitude towards were the guys who came and picked up my couch last week. Brandon and I had the tremendous opportunity to order a new couch and loveseat during an amazing sale back in March, and our furniture was finally ready to be delivered this past week. And I had to find someone to pick up my old couch *fast.* I called everyone I could think of. And when none of them could help me, I started taking suggestions. At each office- Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Catholic Charities of Louisville, the DAV, Volunteers of America, and everyone else I've lost track of, I was sure to express my thanks for any helpful advice I received. I felt bad that I just had one donation to give, and those who couldn't meet my own schedule were going to be missing out, for lack of a better term. Anyway, I finally found a place who could get my couch the next day, and these two gentlemen showed up with their truck and their work gloves. And they were so nice. And one of them had a beach hat and purple fingernails and he was like, six and a half feet tall. It was fun. I'm sure that at a lot of houses, people just kind of point and say "take that" and send them on their way, but I made an effort to talk to them, made a point to share how thankful I was that they were able to come on such short notice, and just try to make them feel appreciated. It's not really a glamorous job. I hope that they enjoy it (they seemed to) but I just really wanted them to know that I appreciated what they were doing, that they were really helping me out, and that I was grateful for that! And that made me feel good, and the next time I have furniture and other stuff to donate, I'll be giving them a call.
The next time I made an effort to show gratitude was my last day with my counselor, Julie. I'm not dropping out of counseling, but she had finished up her hours and taken her exit exam, so last week was our final week together, and now I'll be seeing someone else. I know that in some ways, it's Julie's job to connect with me and be supportive and kind and all that stuff. But I wanted to give her a token of my appreciation, because coming to counseling and sticking with it was kind of a big deal for me. She did a good job dealing with me, and never made me feel weird or unsure about the things I had to share. She has said some really nice things, things that I think go above and beyond what someone in her position would be required or feel obligated to do, and I really do appreciate that. So right before I left last Tuesday, I gave her a bracelet from the AP fundraiser that I'm doing. I picked out a pretty red one for her and explained what it was from and who made it and all that. She was happy to receive it and was appreciative, but her reaction wasn't quite as excited as I thought it would be. I don't mean to say that she was ungrateful, or that I feel like I deserved a bigger display of...something for giving it to her. I have just picked up on some of her mannerisms and the way she talks about things, so her reaction wasn't quite the same as I expected. But there's an important lesson in that. We don't give to receive thanks. And we don't show gratitude so someone else will think better of us or to receive something in return. We do it because it's the right thing to do. And any time we find ourselves giving with an expectation- whether it's a gift, a charitable donation, our letters to our sponsor kids, a kind note, whatever- then we need to step back and reevaluate things. There shouldn't be any sort of motive behind our giving other than to say "thank you" or "I love you" or "I appreciate you." If we are getting upset or frustrated or irritated about the way someone responds to that, then our motives probably weren't as pure as we'd like to pretend.
And finally, the last expression of gratitude for this little exercise went along with the gifts that are headed to Peru for our sponsor kids in a few weeks. A duffle bag of gifts is headed to Peru with my friends Kara and Paul, who are going to visit their mom Mrs. K (you may remember her from when she accepted and then re-mailed gifts for Brenda when she was living in Mexico!) These folks are being very generous in bringing the gifts for me (and a couple of friends) and while I didn't have a lot of money to offer them (which I doubt they would have accepted) I was sure to include a kind note and some treats for Mrs K. The big thing, though, was the note I included for the field office staff in Peru. I have been thinking about them a lot lately. When I went to Tanzania, I loved meeting the Compassion staff there just about as much as I enjoyed meeting all the kids. They all have such huge hearts. And in my experience, this seems to be a job requirement for everyone who works for Compassion. So I found a pretty card and wrote out my feelings about this whole thing- how much I appreciate their hard work. How glad I am that they love our kids as much as we do. How I am praying for them and how I pray that God blesses them abundantly, because they bless me in ways that they may not realize. I hope that some day I am able to travel to every Compassion country and meet the staff there, but I know that this probably will not happen. So from now on, each time I have a chance to send a gift to one of my kids, I'm going to include a note for the field office staff, beyond "thanks for getting these to my kids." And writing that note got me thinking about including a short note to other folks who work for Compassion, too- whether it's a happy little Post-it stuck in with my box of letters, meant to be read by the staffer in Colorado who gets the box and starts to sort out the contents inside, or including cards for my kids' tutors with their letters.
Showing gratitude makes me feel good. I enjoy doing it. I don't think that I came away from this week's challenge any differently than I expected, but I'm glad I did learn a little something, or have a little lightbulb come on, about our motives for giving thanks.
If you accepted my challenge of intentionally showing gratitude this week, I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments!