I have a dirty, thankful job…but someone’s got to do it. Thanking people can sometimes feel like work that’s “down and dirty,” but it might be even more rewarding to you than it is to the one receiving the thanks.
I recently read Tom Peters’ 507 page tome called The Little Big Things. Peters is one of the authors of the classic book, In Search of Excellence. In his new book he claims it’s the little things that make a big difference in business. And if in business, why not in the church as well? Granted, Word and Sacrament are not little things at all. They are the biggest and best things of all. But there are little things that we do because we are gifted with Word and Sacrament that can have a profound human impact, and even a profound spiritual impact.
In The Little Big Things Tom Peters asks: “How many times…today…did you ‘use the two words’? I.e….Exactly how many times did you utter: ‘Thank you’?” It’s a dirty, thankful job…but someone’s got to do it. Why not you? Why not me?
This past week I took Peters’ words to heart and I actually sat down and typed a personal letter to a college professor of mine who has had a profound impact on my life. I didn’t send an email. I didn’t text message. I didn’t leave a voice mail. I didn’t instant message. I wrote a full page, single-spaced letter, put it on letterhead, addressed it, and dropped it in the mail. (Aside: In this day and age of email and text messaging, don’t you love getting a personal note or letter in the mail?)
As I wrote the letter I began to appreciate more than ever the wisdom, guidance, modeling, faithfulness, humor, and knowledge that my professor and mentor passed on to me. Writing the “thank you” letter may have meant more to me than it did to him. It helped me appreciate the gift of God that I have been given in that one man.
I bet I could write a “thank you” letter or note every day, and never run out of people to thank…and learn to appreciate even more the gifts that have been passed on to me by God through people. I don’t want to presuppose anything, but I dearly hope that the letter I sent to my college professor made his day. It would make my day to make his.
It might feel humbling to have to constantly thank other people. But “dirty, thankful jobs” can create good will, good effort, good grace, good teamwork, and even good friends, family, partners, and fellow Christians.
I now have a sticky note on the front of my computer that says: “Whom have you thanked today?”
Whom have you thanked today? Let me know. I’d love to hear about your experiences.