Even my heart felt “thank you” doesn’t feel enough at times for me to express gratitude, and I don’t mean just for holiday season gifts, I mean for those that come to me through the hard work, talents, abilities and generosity of others, or for those things that I feel I have not earned but have naturally come to me.

Every day people perform various tasks through which we benefit in some way, directly or indirectly. I think of those people as facilitators. Yes, it’s a job they are doing, a service they render, and they do get paid for it (Not always commensurate with time energy and skills). Some people go above and beyond the call of duty when they do their daily work, some people do for others in the form of charity, or what are often called simple acts of kindness. However, it seems to me that many people are so caught up in the seasonal rush they fail to fully appreciate how people in all walks of life enable it all to come together; not just during the holidays, every day of the year, year in and year out.

I heard someone say an off handed barely audible “Thanks” to a clerk in a store the other day. The clerk, who had a long line of customers waiting to be checked out responded to my cheerful “Hello” in a perfunctory manner and seemed tense as she rang up my purchases. When she handed me the package I made sure I had eye contact with her when I said, “Thanks, I really appreciate your efficiency and patience. Take care of yourself.” Her expression changed from strained and bored to a smile that lit up her face. I’d given her the gift of gratitude. Her response told me that my words had entered that place we all have within us that is always open to recognition: Recognition is a requirement for us to feel connected to others and the world. In essence it is acknowledgement of our existence; it is one of our most primary needs for survival and growth from the moment of our birth. Did you know that?

I noticed that the next person in line was greeted by her with a smile and a cheerful, “Hi, how are you today?”

“Thank you,’ is often said as automatically and thoughtlessly as “how are you?’ and “have a nice day,” and other phrases that are in many respects like verbal ticks: “Thank you,” of the routine kind is minimally polite in that case. Genuine appreciation is much more than that, it has a different quality in its expression; it comes with warm caring words that have emotional energy behind them. They are felt by both speaker and the one spoken to.

Words of sincere gratitude are gifts that go straight to the heart. Even when you are thanking someone for repaying a debt, that kind of expression leaves a positive psychic imprint in the person who hears it.

We can and ought to thank our parents for doing their best; we can thank our genes if we are good looking, or have talents and intelligence. We can thank the powers that be for the blessings of being born in a free country, and for being bestowed with all the things we feel important to our well being, like love and caring family and friends, for the ability to work for food, clothing and shelter, and for being independent. Even for being alive and able to appreciate all the beauty and goodness in the world. We can thank those who have helped us in times of need. We can thank everyone for the every day services they provide (ideally right there and then). And yes, we can reciprocate, we can be profuse in our verbal gratitude, and in our prayers; however we need to always remember, and continue to appreciate all we have been given in times past, and the givers too.

I like to take time to reflect on those who have touched my life with their giving; for their friendship, for their trust, and for the gifts of time and energy they have spent on me. I don’t want people to forget that I remember, so I send out a telepathic message of thanks again when they come to mind. All around me I have reminders; objects that decorate every room in my home, office and therapy room. Just looking at and touching them enables me to recall the giver, and I smile as my memories of him or her flow back into my awareness and it brings them close to me again; they are tangible reminders of our relationship. Although some gifts I’ve received are not tangible they are as solidly implanted in my memory and always will be because I consciously reinforce their existence.

Just stop and think right now of all the receiving you have done over time: Feel the warmth as you bring back those positive feelings. Let them flow all thorough you, wrap them around your heart. Decide never to forget.

I might be considered a bit of a hoarder because I can never part with a gift, for a gift is a memorial of sorts. They, like photographs bring back memories that might otherwise be lost to me. So to let it go seems ungrateful. I know it’s the thought that counts, but to me the object is a manifestation of the givers caring and generosity, to be appreciated always.

When people sit in my therapy room and look around, they often ask about the many objects on the shelves and ask me about their significance for me. I always get sentimental when I explain their origins, and once again I am consciously grateful for having served so many people and how they have expressed appreciation for my contributions to their lives. And I’m reminded again how they have contributed to my experience, professionally and personally.

The advice to keep a list of all you are grateful for is good of course, and we are taught from an early age to count our blessings. However, I think most people tend to count only those they have in their immediate experience, just as people tend to focus only on what is missing in their lives at the moment, or when things are tough for them and they are doing without so much. While they yearn for more or better they are forgetting they have a storehouse of gifts – -small and large blessings of every kind stored in their memory banks; they would benefit by reflecting on them to feel less deprived. Good memories are like cozy comforters on a cold night, and they can sustain us in difficult times.

What you have had is part of your emotional foundation, if you focus on that, it helps you maintain the feeling of being blessed. Think of the hugs and kisses you have had, the warmth of good companionship and various forms of love that have come to you, the gifts wrapped with care and affection. What you have had can never be lost to you unless you allow it.

Give yourself the gift of remembrance.

When I was very young I had a little difficulty accepting the fact that we cannot possibly perform a totally unselfish act. I came to realize that giving is a form of receiving: It’s a gift we give ourselves.

I’ve also learned that giving unconditionally is part of the value of giving.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate a “Thank you.” I do, very much so.

I also know that if I have expectations from the receiver I must inform him or her before I give or offer anything or do anything for them, whatever it might be. It’s only fair and it certainly gives them the right to say, “In that case, no thank you,” if they don’t want to be obligated to me in any way.

It’s hard for most of us to be on the receiving end without the ability to reciprocate. However, a warm hearted sincerely expressed appreciation is more than enough for an unconditional giver, and an occasional reminder to the giver of how the gift was and still is appreciated is a lasting gift of great value. To show appreciation is a blessed obligation, and it has a grace and beauty all its own. We may, in many instances never be able to fully repay or reciprocate some things we receive, however, making sure the giver knows the full extent of our appreciation leaves positive imprints in the giver and receiver’s psyches.

Some people I know recall only the things they’ve been given that didn’t satisfy, or failed to have the desired effect, which is a disappointment for both receiver and giver. They forget that the givers best intentions were of great value. It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Actually, so is the road to heaven.

The unintentional wrongs, errors of omission and the mistakes made by people are held more closely in minds and hearts shriveled with disappointment, anger and unforgiving-ness than the good things that have come to them: They recall only what they didn’t get instead of what they did, or what is not coming to them in the now.  For those people I quote my mother, “Some people forget the bread they have eaten.” She also said, “Write the wrongs people do in the sand and carve the good they do in stone.”

This time of year people are giving themselves more gifts of giving than any other time. The thanks they receive are gifts too.

So after you have opened your holiday gifts, said “thank you” with hugs etc… as you give thanks for the blessings bestowed on you in the present, you could make a promise to yourself to keep what you have received by nature and nurture throughout your past, and keep the givers in mind always, along with the thanks you have received, then you will never feel deprived throughout all the seasons of your life.

TTFN and all the best, always from Elaine Kissel