I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately and the more I think about it, the more I can’t help but notice my thanks tend to orbit around the expected tropes that I presume most people trip over. Family, health, friends, a home, a job that only makes me occasionally complain. And guess what? I’m grossly grateful for these things, but it made me wonder—what if I looked a bit further into the periphery of my life. What’s out there that I should be paying attention to and directing my thank yous?
So, I looked. And, as it happened, the more I looked, the more I found.
I started keeping a little list that I’d carry around with me. On this list, I’d scribble down the people in my life whom, honestly, I don’t even really technically know, but they’re people who have inspired me, shaped me, or just, when I think of them, make me think, “Good gravy on a biscuit, I’m so grateful for you and that might be weird, but just hear me out.” So, I sent them thank you cards. I sent thank you cards to celebrities, neighbors, and even a few people who are half a degree away from being a complete stranger in my life.
Below are a few samples. (It feels rude to be publicly parading the contents of my handwritten notes, but for the sake of editorial integrity, here goes.)
Hi, it’s April from 857 and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for delivering our mail (the smell of ink on envelopes is a delicacy I look forward to six days a week). Thank you for getting to our mailbox even when it’s 30 below and we haven’t yet shoveled. Thank you for always smiling and stopping to ask how we are when we see you. And thank you for inspiring my son to refer to his Fisher-Price Little People mailman toy excitedly as, “Dave!”
Dolly (is it ok that I call you Dolly?),
I’ve thought about writing a letter of thanks to you since I was a girl, but no pens hold enough ink to get me through all I’d need or like to articulate. So, I’ll task myself with keeping this relatively short. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for teaching me about the world-bending magic of words and storytelling. Thank you for showing me how to claw out of a penitentiary of poverty, but with an enduring indebtedness to the people and landscapes that build a human spirit. Thank you for reminding me that even ladies with “Minnie Mouse” voices get to be heard. Thank you for Imagination Library, for being a hero of mine and thank you always and forever for “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”
Also for your impeccable style,
I’m writing simply to say thank you for making a great majority of my mornings. You somehow always remember my name (how?) and ask how my dog is doing (bless your heart) and leave precisely enough room for cream in my light roast.
Thank you much-ly,
I’ll be honest, I started going to The Firm after a free trial where I discovered that it’s basically a grown-up playground for my high energy and competitive nature (a combo that, outside of the walls of The Firm, can get me into pickles). I’ll never stop going because it’s become a place I frankly can’t live without—and not because of the cycle class with the disco ball (though, yeah, that’s cool), but because it’s proven to be a place with people inside who’ll get me through anything. Without knowing it, The Firm’s gotten me through a lot of happy times (a proposal, a marriage, a change in career, and even a baby) and some not-so-great ones (family troubles, infertility, a miscarriage, and the great big sads I catch a case of every single February). It’s clear to me that this is all by design and that, while I’m the only one who can speak for me, I’m not alone in feeling like this place is another home, a shelter and at times a Lizzo-blaring sanctuary. Thank you for building it for me and for our entire community.
I accidentally smuggled a towel into my gym bag, but I’ll return it when I see you next,
Sniffing around for everything to be grateful for made me—no surprise here—more grateful, more humbled, and more elated by life and all these people who share it with me.
So what happened with this little experiment? Simply stated, it made me pay attention. It made me look up and look around at my life more closely. It put me on high alert, in a good way (no, the best way). Sniffing around for everything to be grateful for made me—no surprise here—more grateful, more humbled, and more elated by life and all these people who share it with me.
All in all, I’d say the few totally graceless hand-offs were worth it. Ten out of ten would recommend.
And, hey, thanks for reading.
April (Swinson) Smasal spent her formative years in Wyoming, where her career options were limited to rodeo queen or writer. Foregoing the lure of an impressive belt buckle collection, she opted for the word thing. Now, she’s a copywriter and writer-writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband, Nick, baby boy, Hank Danger and very cute-slash-spoiled French Bulldog, Arnold E. Biscuits.
BY April (Swinson) Smasal - November 17, 2019
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.