A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life
At the end of 2007, John Kralik felt that his life had plummeted just about as low as any life could fall. His law firm was losing not only money but also its office space. Although separated from his second wife for more than three years, the separation process had stalled. He had no money. He lived in a dump of a dark apartment where he slept on the floor in order to get relief from the heat via the ancient air conditioner. He had lost his connection with his grown sons from his first marriage. His recent love, Grace, had just split up with him. And he could only predict that 2008 would be even worse.
Kralik and Grace had planned to spend New Year's Day walking a mountain trail above Pasadena, but Kralik decided to go alone. He wandered the trail until he became lost. As he searched for the path back to the trail, slipping and sliding, a voice spoke to him:
"Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have," it said, "you will not receive the things you want."
Kralik paid attention. As he meandered on, searching for the trail, he started to remember his grandfather's gift of a silver dollar. Kralik was only five years old at the time. When his grandfather told him that he would receive another silver dollar if he wrote a thank-you letter, he did follow through --- once, receiving a second silver dollar. However, now, 47 years later, Kralik was suddenly aware of his grandfather's true message. He had a pile of nice personal stationery at his office; the return address would be obsolete when his firm moved. So he resolved to somehow find one person in his life to thank every single day for a year. If he wrote a thank-you note daily as planned, he would spend the year writing a total of 365 thank yous.
The only problem? Kralik seriously doubted he had anything at all to be grateful for. By the next day, he still could not think of one person in his life who deserved a handwritten thank-you note. But, coincidentally, that day he received one himself. That handwritten missive from an important person in his life seemed to be a sign that he should begin his project.
Kralik turned to his pile of Christmas gifts. On January 3rd, he wrote his first thank you, expressing his gratitude to his older son for a present. However, when he started to address the envelope, he realized he didn't know his son's address. This was a devastating awareness, resulting in a phone call --- and an invitation from his son to meet. At their lunch date, Kralik experienced his first significant miraculous event. Others began to follow as he set pen to paper in appreciation. These were not rote letters; instead, he dug deep to find something he could truly describe as valuable to his life. This made for difficulties at times, such as when he yearned to write a note to his soon-to-be ex-wife.
By March, when people asked Kralik how he was doing, he could sincerely offer upbeat answers. These were usually related to the gratitude expressed in a recently written thank-you note. His optimistic replies had a buoyant domino effect on the people around him and made him appreciate aspects of his own life that he had forgotten or taken for granted. The more he focused on finding targets for his gratitude, the more his life changed.
This heartfelt story of transformation via a humble note a day is a gripping page-turner as well as a truly stirring read. Readers may well be moved to pull off a similar feat (what better time to start than now, when the year is still young?) or simply to write the author their own thank-you note to express their appreciation for this marvelously inspiring book.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on January 14, 2011