My Gratitude Challenge

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” - Marcel Proust

3 min. read

My momma taught me to say please and thank you, to keep my elbows off the table, and to never chew with my mouth full. As a near grown-up Sam, these all feel as natural as breathing, blinking, or eating peanut butter directly from the jar with a spoon (sorry, Momma).

I thank the bus driver whenever I get off the bus, the coffee shop person several times throughout the “put caffeine inside of me process” (“What would you like?” Caffeine, thanks!), and I even thanked the Capital One rep when she told me that my identity was stolen (again) and some yahoo in New York is spending all the money I don’t have. I say a lot of thank yous in any given day. But there are a lot of people I never thank.

I don’t thank the people who write essays (like this one) or give talks (like this one) that tickle my brain and leave my mind spinning for days, weeks, or, sometimes, years. I don’t thank the people who write books I read that shape my perspective, changing the way I think about writing, the world, and myself. I don’t thank people who taught me things, or provided the support I needed, that led me to where I am today.

I got an email today from someone thanking me for the things I do online and it included the sentiment “I bet you get this a lot, but…” The truth is, I don’t get a lot of encouraging emails. In fact, I get very few. But the few I do get I stick in a Gmail folder called “encouragement” in case I’m having a rough week and need to tap into my reserves. Almost every encouraging email I _do _get includes that “I’m sure you get this a a lot” sentiment. And I realized today that I often think the same thing, and that keeps me from saying thank you to the people whose work I appreciate. I don’t want to be a nuisance. They won’t care about hearing from lil ol’ me. I’m gonna eat some more peanut butter from the jar.

If I can muster up the gratitude to say thanks to the bus driver, I can muster up a bit more to thank all those other people. I don’t mean to say bus drivers aren’t as worthy of my gratitude (they are!), but I don’t think I’m living up to the gratitude I was taught if I only say thanks to the people in my immediate presence. And I’m going to stop allowing myself to assume the other people, the writers and talkers and designers and creators, who influence me wouldn’t want to hear my thanks.

For the next week, whenever I read or watch something that really hits me deep, I’m going to write the person who made it a thank you. I will write at least one thank you per day for the next seven. Let me know if you’ll take the same challenge in the comments below, and we can share stories.

Thank you for being you,


Oh, but if you do, please don’t send me a thank you, or it won’t count as one of your seven (sorry, I don’t make the rules — blame the folks at corporate). This challenge is not me fishing for more thanks.