With November being the month of Thanksgiving, there always seems to be a gratitude or thankfulness challenge that pops up on social media. Some can be a little hokey, but the premise is good. Find joy in every day and appreciate those around you. November seems to be the time for remembering that gratitude is an inside job. It starts with you.
I’ve been pouring over the book The Thank-You Project: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time these last few weeks. The author, Nancy Davis Kho, embarked on a letter-writing project when she turned 50 to write 50 letters to people in her life to show how much they meant to her. It could be significant thanks molded over years of a relationship, such as your parents or siblings, or a brief encounter that touched you, such as your neighbor bringing you homemade banana bread.
She was very methodical in her approach to spreading 50 letters of love. It got me thinking if I could take on a thank-you project in my own life. Who would be on my list? Could I actually finish this project?
Kho took months to finish her 50 letters. If I’m honest with myself, I’m gung-ho about starting projects, but sometimes finishing is a little harder. Ask all the half-finished craft projects in my closet. They’ll tell you the real story and it’s not very pretty.
Still, I’m intrigued by this letter-writing project, including all the steps she outlines. Even if you never finish it all, each of the steps make you process the people in your life who have made you who you are today.
Step one is to make your list of people. Don’t overthink it, Kho says, and just brainstorm your first list with no edits. Think of all the people that have helped, shaped, or inspired you. You might be aiming for a certain number of letters, such as 50 or 100, but you can also just stop when your brainstorming list runs out.
Step two is to write your letters. I personally love to send handwritten letters. It’s soothing to me to write things out on paper since I spend so much time at a computer. Plus, have you seen the beautiful stationery and envelopes available these days? Swoon worthy. However, if you process your thoughts better on a computer, which is how Kho did her letters, then use the letter-crafting experience that works best for you.
Step three (and this one surprised me!) is to make a copy of your letters before you mail. Kho really emphasizes this step of making a copy, or printing an extra copy, and putting them all in a notebook for you to save. She says, “I promise you that seeing the finished results of your Thank-You Project, the actual physical mass of however many letters you decided to write, is powerful medicine. And it’s one without an expiration date or copay.”
Step four is to send it, if you so choose. For some, completing the whole process is a key step, including dropping it in the mail. For others, it may just be writing the letter, but never sending it.
For instance, I once wrote a healing letter to my dad, who has never been in my life, and I even sealed and stamped it but never sent it. I needed those words to emerge for my own healing, but delivering it was always secondary. Maybe someday.
I’m not sure how you will embrace giving thanks this November, but I’m drawn to the idea of being thoughtful and deliberate in how we do it.
We put energy into so many things. Why not how we tell people the difference they’ve made in our lives. Let’s give thanks, shall we?
Heather Feeler is planning to do her own thank-you project. She’s making her list right now and praying she can finish what she started.