Learning to Say Thanks

Today’s Principle: Giving & Receiving

In the practice of Giving, we are forced to recognize our contributions to the world, and that no gift is too small to make a difference. In receiving, we are forced to recognize the abundance all around us, and acknowledge that we are worthy of it. Either way, we are practicing kindness and gratitude.

A friend of mine recently told me that he has a hard time receiving gifts, and therefore never asks for anything specific at Christmas time. Not that he doesn’t like the concept of gifting–he just has a hard time saying thank you. But he’d gladly spend the time and effort necessary to offer the right present to someone else.

I sympathize with him. Back when I was reading my poetry out loud to strangers in brightly lit libraries and half-filled tea houses, I had a hard time taking compliments. Folks would come up to me and gush over some such poem or my delivery. And I would shrug and avert my eyes, quietly uttering “Thanks”.  Or they would tell me I was beautiful, or compliment a piece of jewelry I was wearing.  I used to think that people didn’t really “get” me, that they were just being polite.

Then I read a book (which I do not remember) on writing, which advocated acknowledging each compliment with a sincere “Thank You”. I decided to try it. Then repeat. As I practiced giving thanks, I realized that these compliments were not about me at all. The folks offering praise were moved to do so. And by responding sincerely, I honor and acknowledge their feelings.

It took a lot of practice, but I say Thanks all the time now. Yes, I work in retail. But outside of that, every conversation usually contains a sentence of gratitude. And it seems such a small thing now.


[photo by Daniel W. Barlow]

Southwest’s in-flight magazine, Spirit, had an article about 29 Gifts, a project that advocates giving one thing each day for 29 days. The creator did this and found it had changed her immensely. Here’s my project for today: log what’s been gifted and received this week. I’m hoping for a zero balance.


1. Lunch with a friend at our local Thai restaurant this afternoon, which was a gift of time (even though I requested it). It was really great to catch up.

2. Today I sent off “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith to someone who requested it from me through http://www.paperbackswap.com. I have to pay $2.38 for the shipping. A small price.

3. I finally created a free public Google calendar to replace the Vermont Poetry Calendar I had set up here on my blog. This is to be the most comprehensive listing of poetry activities in Vt. today I offered it to the local library, in case they’d like to embed it to their website.

4. Yesterday I wrapped another present for a friend. I hope to deliver it soon.

5. Today I helped my boyfriend get unstuck from the driveway. Later, I sprinkled some de-icer on our parking spot, so it would be ice-free when he got home.

6. I made up a tongue twister and gave it to a friend for his birthday.

7. We brought a bottle of champagne and some marzipan to a friend’s house.  (Marzipan was my idea)

8. I brought back a chocolate bar from Arizona for the ladies at work.

9. I volunteered my time for First Night festivities.

10. More gifts from Arizona.


1. The Arizona trip was gifted to me and my boyfriend by his family, and they prefer to treat us while we’re there. They let us borrow the car, and brought us places–including the Desert Botanical Gardens and Kratchner Caverns, which I wrote about yesterday. It also included a full Xmas morning of presents all around.

2. This morning I picked up mail and received a packet of poetry info from a friend–full of resources and ideas.

3. Also in the mail I received more holiday cards!

4. Also in the mail a brand new book by a friend of mine. Can’t wait to read it.

5. My boyfriend made dinner the last two nights: vegetarian gumbo and tacos.

6. He also did my laundry and made our bed.

7. I got a ride home from lunch at the Thai place today.

8. A co-worker willingly switched shifts with me.

9. My boyfriend also drives me to / from work when I need it.

10. He also said I can use any of his photos as illustrations for this blog.

11. Each time I put a call out to my Facebook friends they responded, in relation to lunches in Vermont and things to do in Tucson.

12. Our cat sitter refused to take our money.

13. I am truly grateful to the TSA in both Manchester, NH and Phoenix, AZ for a very easy time at both airports.


Listed numerically, it seems like a wash, but taking in to account all the resources and effort, I’d say I received a whole lot more than I gave this week. I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by naturally giving people. My challenge now is to try to find more ways to make meaningful contributions, while not necessarily giving “more of myself”–I do not have much time to offer.


Thank You.

[On The Road by Daniel W. Barlow]

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