A stance of Gratitude
I like the word ‘Thanks’. I always have. I like to say it, often and specifically. I like the way it sounds when I say it. Beginning with a soft ‘th’ sound (rather than the harder ‘th’ of words like ‘the, those, that’) and then falling down to the ‘ks’ – it is a word that phonetically appeals to me, as it is worked from the front to the back of the mouth when it is spoken, and feels natural to me.
Like many children, I was taught and encouraged to “say thank you” robotically. I took to it pretty naturally and I quickly discovered that I liked saying it. As a self-focused child, I learned that I was more likely to continue to get good things when I was thankful (simple positive reinforcement). However, as I grew up, I began to learn that I enjoyed people, tasks, gifts, etc more when I was thankful for them. This was particularly true with tasks that I did NOT look forward to, and growing up in a family of farmers, that meant working. Physical work in greenhouses with long hours after completing a full day of school, working on the weekends instead of being with my friends, foregoing sports, etc,- all against my will. One long day in 8th grade, when I was complaining about still working after everyone else had gone home, my mom, at her tipping point, said sternly “Sandra: This is how your life is right now. Find a way to like it and keep going, or you’ll be fairly unhappy until you graduate high school.” While I’m sure my attitude didn’t change instantly, I took her “make the best of it” speech and found ways to put it into practice, mostly by saying ‘thank you’ to the people that were working with me to complete a task. Seeking out ways that others were helping me made me feel like part of a team, of something larger than myself, and it was easier to be content.
I’ve replayed my mother’s words many times over the years: continuing to work in the greenhouses through college, cleaning toilets in grad school, driving 400+ miles a week without reimbursement to work with children with emotional issues who often yelled “I hate you!” at me over and over; and probably most often in regards to a chronic illness that I’ve had for the past 11 years. I’ve learned the most about myself: capabilities, breaking points, my finite nature, trust in the Goodness of the Lord, how to be supported, and so on through the journey of healing that I have embarked on over the past decade. I am hoping this journey concludes soon, as I have recently undergone a major surgery to remove the infected organ and forever alter my body. While I am still recovering from the surgery, and preparing for one more in the coming weeks to complete the process, I am overwhelmed with the flooding of prayers, well wishes, care packages, an anonymous check to help with medical bills, phone calls, texts, flowers, hugs, gifts, meals, high fives, and so on that I have received over the past two months. This support has come from friends old to brand new, family close to ‘see every few Christmases’, to people that I don’t know personally, but they are friends of someone related to me and want to support and encourage me.
It is truly humbling to receive such support, and my desire to convey my thanks, often and specifically, has been great. To some extent I’ve been able to do this, to literally say
“thank you,” but it doesn’t feel like enough. I was discussing this with a friend, saying how I want to give a gift to everyone that has supported me over the past couple of months, and she looked at me and said “but you can’t do that, you just have to take what has been given to you accept it.” I’ve realized my great desire to “settle the score” so to speak. I’ve realized that deep down, I don’t feel worthy of this outpouring of love, and therefore I don’t feel satisfied with my thanks. Just as the word itself starts at my teeth and finishes at the back of my mouth, I am swallowing my thanks with complete humility, to combat the lie that lives within. While I will continue to seek out opportunities to say thanks, often and specifically, I will also learn to swallow the word from time to time and remind myself that I am so greatly loved.
Sandy lives with her husband Mark in Chico, CA. She grew up in Kalamazoo, MI and has her BA from Calvin College and her MA in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College. Sandy is the youngest in a family of five and the fun and silly aunt to many nieces and nephews. She is perhaps best known by friends for her wit and sarcastic humor. She also wanted to include that she thinks Krista is a rockstar.