I got a call from Carla Baker from Houston the other day. She just called to let me know that she had gotten her order, and to say “Thank You” for the “I Think You’re Wonderful” pen I had included with her order.
Tell me. How do you think I feel about Carla Baker? Do I feel a little surge of warmth whenever I hear her voice? Do I remember her as one of my favorite customers, even though we haven’t seen each other for years? Do I see in her a reflection of what it means to be a loving Baha’i?
Yes. I do.
That’s the power of gratitude.
I gave her a pen. She gave me something much more important: acknowledgement… and a few minutes of her time.
(Please don’t think this is a veiled attempt to get you to call me to say “thanks.” It is simply an observation of how powerful expressions of gratitude can be – even in business.)
Gratitude is good for the receiver, but it is also incredibly powerful for the person expressing thanks. In The Secret of Emotions, I mention research on happiness that explores the power of gratitude:
“In the [study] that had the strongest immediate effect, participants were given a week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude—in person—to someone who had been especially kind to them but had never been properly thanked. These people’s happiness went up dramatically right after the exercise, and then slowly returned to normal over a six month period.
“Gratitude, of course, is a core virtue, so it should not surprise anyone that such an intense expression of it would have a positive effect on a person’s feelings, but that this positive effect could last up to six months gives us reason for encouragement in our own lives.”
Saying “thank-you” to the store cashier, the person who complements you on FaceBook, the relative who calls to check on you, the child who sets the table; these all help foster a generalized “attitude of gratitude” that helps you to be better able to recognize the blessings that surround you every day.
So how can this be applied to Community Life?
When I lived in Albuquerque, we held a Feast in which we had taped small posters on the wall with people’s names on them. During the social portion of Feast, we went around and wrote words of gratitude on each poster. It was very powerful.
If an Assembly is looking for a very simple way to create unity, they can simply write thank-you notes to everyone in their community. In my 46 years as a Baha’i, I can tell you that I have really appreciated every one of the handful of thank-you notes I’ve received from Baha’i institutions.
If an Assembly REALLY wants to generate a bond between community members, then they can send everyone three thank-you cards – pre-stamped – with a request that each community member take a few minutes to write a thank-you note to two people in the Community, and one person who is not.
(The Assembly should make sure every community member receives at least one thank-you note.)
What is there to thank people for? The process of figuring that out is itself enlightening. Searching your memory for an act of kindness or generosity can create invisible bonds of love between people. It can change a person’s entire perception of the community… and their outlook on life as well.
May you have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving and two Holy Days this week.
I would like to end with one of my favorite quotations – about the very purpose of the Cause of God:
“…the Cause of the Ancient Beauty is the very essence of love, the very channel of oneness, existing only that all may… become servants one to another, adore one another, bless one another, praise one another; that each one may loose his tongue and extol the rest without exception, each one voice his gratitude to all the rest; that all should lift up their eyes to the horizon of glory, and remember that they are linked to the Holy Threshold; that they should see nothing but good in one another, hear nothing but praise of one another, and speak no word of one another save only to praise.”
Maybe you could start practicing this at tonight’s Zoom Day of the Covenant observance. I’m sure it would make Abdu’l-Baha very happy.