At the end of 2016, a young man I know asked me to give him some career advice. I asked him the usual questions about what made him happy, and what he wanted to do, how much he wanted to earn, and the type of job that would give him these things. His answers were vague, at best. And I told him so, and demanded that he do better for me but, more importantly, for himself, and I made him give me better answers.
Truth be told, it probably wasn’t the easiest conversation of his life. (Some of you might acutely feel his pain through PTSD from similar conversations with me. I accept that but don’t apologize. #sorrynotsorry)
But he survived, and I recommended to a friend that he give the kid a look, even though the job my friend needed to fill didn’t much match the kid’s background, but did fit his dreams. And he did. And he hired him.
And he never sent me a thank you note.
But then, he excelled at his job, and he got a promotion. And I heard about this from my friend. Again, no thank you note, no gratitude, nothing.
Almost another year went by, during which time this young man fell in love, and decided to leave the job and move to another state with his boyfriend. I heard this, too, from my friend.
I began to become a bit sad that the young man didn’t send me even an email for either of these happy occasions. It’s not that I needed hist continued thanks. I simply wanted to live vicariously through his happiness and remain part of his cheering section.
Then, a full two years later, a full page, handwritten — small print — letter arrived at my door. It acknowledge its tardiness — all was forgiven immediately, obviously — and recounted the ways in which I’d been instrumental to his success, including that fateful tough conversation, and then discussed his excitement about his recent move and new job in his new home. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t leave it on the counter for my husband and children and friends to read, such is my pride for him.
It’s Thanksgiving, and before think that you’ve missed the opportunity to express gratitude to someone who has been pivotal in your life, let me say this: you haven’t. That’s the thing about gratitude: it’s timeless, and it’s always in season.
I have been so fortunate in this life to have had mentors and champions and friends who have been there in ways big and small at just those pivotal moments, giving me an open ear, some sound advice, or those occasional tough conversations. Some of them I’ve not thanked enough, for fear of being a burden. Talking to this young man that day is just my way of paying it forward, putting money into the account of a debt that I know that I can never repay, but which I will spend the rest of my life attempting to make whole. I wish I’d spent more time writing more notes, and filling the buckets of my mentors and champions and friends who just wanted to be in my cheering section, too.
So, today, release yourself from the burden of feeling like a burden. Give the gift of thanks. Take ten minutes and write a note. Pick up the phone and express some gratitude. Take some time to pay it forward.
And, if you have read this far: thank you, too, for believing in me and my words. I’m so glad you are here.