Living the ThankList Life

Gratitude is not just a choice, it’s a commandment
Living the ThankList Life
Image: The Shopping Sherpa / Flickr

The political race has already begun. Racial tensions are still simmering. Tragedies occur every single day. But today, two words broke through all of this gray: thank you.

Two words cut me to my quick and brought me to my knees: thank you.

Two words remind me of where I’ve come from and how I got here: thank you.

In a country where 95 percent of people think we have a civility problem, it encourages me that 87 percent of them are willing to change the status quo.

Why not start today—with two little words? Thank you.

The ThankList, initiated by American Greetings, is a way to pay homage to those who came before you or are currently running alongside you. It’s a way to take just a few minutes out of your day to acknowledge the positive impact that one life can have on another.

While a simple thank you might not be the remedy for a rude world, it certainly does provide hope for a broken one.

This campaign was inspired by a recent documentary series produced by the two-time Academy Award-winning Barbara Kopple and American Greetings. Kopple follows around real people as they seek to personally thank each person on their lists. The emotional responses from all the participants in this series highlight the important truth that the ThankList is hoping to pass on: a simple thank you can be a renewing, life-changing experience for the giver and recipient alike.

This idea of gratitude resonates through Scripture. The Samaritan leper’s gratitude came as a simple shout of praise. David’s thankfulness permeated his life and writings of the psalms. And Mary’s gratitude? It came in the form of expensive oils and a humble act of service as she sat at the feet of Jesus just days before his crucifixion. What many would consider a bold, futile sacrifice, she considered a response of praise and thanks.

There are two commandments we are told to live by: love God and love other people. As we struggle to show our gratitude to God every day, we can actively show our love for others by thanking those who have molded, shaped, encouraged, convicted, rebuked, and inspired us.

We all have cheerleaders and mentors and parents and best friends and pastors and perhaps even strangers who have touched our lives and made us feel, just for a moment, like we were special, loved, and valued. And it’s time to let them know.

In the beginning of my life, I knew the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” to be true, and I have countless people to thank for filling those roles, but as I grow older, I’m beginning to realize the reality of “it takes a village to live well.” From my Peet’s barista to my colleagues to my college professors, my daily life is positively influenced by many, many people, and I could not be more grateful.

The ThankList website states that the “remedy for a rude world starts with reminding people to say two simple words: ‘Thank You.’” While a simple thank you might not be the remedy for a rude world, it certainly does provide hope for a broken one.

After all, as Christians, we are commanded—no matter our lot or our lives or our luck—to “be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Thankfulness is not optional—it’s mandatory.

Adele Calhoun talks about this idea of gratitude in her book The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. She writes, “Thankfulness is a thread that can bind together all the patchwork squares of our lives. Difficult times, happy days, seasons of sickness, hours of bliss—all can be sewn together into something lovely with the thread of thankfulness.”

Instead of scribbling more items on my bucket list (after all, I think 154 is enough for now), I’m going to make an effort to be more thankful. I’m already jotting down names for my ThankList, and, honestly, this is more exciting than dreaming up my next international vacation.

So today I ask you: Who is on your ThankList?

As you think about your answers, American Greetings has set up ThankList.Com, a site where you can leave a personalized note or video for those whom you’d like to thank. But in reality, you don’t need an external site to connect you to other people. A handwritten note, phone call, text message, or even just a Facebook post could do the trick.

Albert Schweitzer once wrote: “In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

So to all of those people who placed the kindling, lit the match, and stoked the fire of my soul: thank you.

And may I never forget that this practice, of seeing those who are edifying and encouraging and multiplying the joy in my life, should become a daily discipline of gratitude, an intentional act of love, both to other people and to my Savior.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Joy Beth Smith

Joy Beth Smith is the assistant editor for Today's Christian Woman. You can follow her on Twitter at @JBsTwoCents or Instagram at @jbstwocents or on her website JoyBethSmith.com.

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