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Paula Olson, The Northwest Connection

It’s already March. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? A friend of mine has latched onto Chinese New Year because she says it’s sort of like a “re-do” opportunity if you don’t stick to your calendar year resolutions. Chinese New Year usually falls at the end of January or early February and this, the year of the dragon, was no exception. So, about three weeks after 2017 started, some of us said, “Well, let’s be serious about it now.” Have I gotten down to the business of carrying out my resolutions?

Not so much. I remember giving up a few years ago after trying to explain resolutions to my son. He resolved to go swimming with his parents during open swim (read: play time for kids and families) twice a week at the Y. That was actually more of a wish to lock the parents into a commitment they can’t keep due to scheduling, sports games, and other various obstacles. But it sounded good to him.

So that leads me to the meat of this piece. I was inspired by several instances when the topic of thank-you notes arose. One instance was last year when my son attended several birthday parties of his fellow first graders. A few days after a party he said out of the blue, “I wonder when we’ll get a thank-you note from [so and so]. Knowing that I’ve drilled into him the importance of (a) written correspondence and (b) expressing gratitude for time, gifts, help, meals, whatever, I gently told him that while people may be appreciative of birthday presents, not everyone writes thank-you notes anymore. But I am glad that we do because who doesn’t enjoy getting a piece of mail that isn’t a bill and who doesn’t like to hear “thank you” when they have put time, money, and/or effort into doing something for somebody?

How does this relate to New Year resolutions? On to the second instance on the topic of thank-you notes. I read an article about a woman who promised herself that she would write a thank-you to somebody every single day of the year. If she missed any days, she would do more than one to make up for the missed days. Some thank-you’s were obvious like receiving gifts at holidays or invitations to dinner at a friend’s home, but I especially like the idea of thanking people for qualities they exude or a kindness they have shown to me or someone else. Simply taking ten minutes, a notecard and pen, and (now, I think) forty-five cents to deliver a few lines of gratitude to someone feels good, and you just may make someone’s day.

Maybe a card every day is an unrealistic expectation but one card a week is not. It can be a small piece of paper, a card, even a post card, and it doesn’t have to be more than a few lines. Remember, it’s a note, not a book, though you may find yourself wanting to convey even more than you set out to. Set aside some day of the week so you consistently pull out your pen of gratitude and lift someone’s spirits. You will find that your spirits will also rise. I will add that by asking your children to give their input, you will help to instill appreciation in them. You could read aloud the couple of lines you have written and ask what they think. They’ll learn what a nice thank-you note sounds like, and what seemingly inconspicuous things a person does can be appreciated. You can ask them what they are thankful for about Mrs. Johnson or Uncle Joe, and include those in your note.

It’s already past my friend’s re-do/start-over resolution day, but it’s never too late to start something good.

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