Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Don't Wait 'Till Thanksgiving

I want to recommend a good book that I have bumped into lately. You wouldn’t call the book brilliant or earthshaking—but it set me to thinking about my own life. Isn’t that the mark of a good book?

365 Thank Yous was written by John Kralik. John Kralik is a lawyer who found his life in shambles a couple of years ago. It seemed that everything that could go wrong in a person’s life John was experiencing. He was struggling through a painful and complicated second divorce. He had two grown children that he had little contact with and third younger child that he was afraid the same thing would happen with her. His business had tanked because so many of his clients were just not paying in the economic downturn. He was living in a lousy apartment that was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. He was overweight and had just broken up with his girl friend. Nothing he tried seemed to work.

He began to wonder if there wasn’t something he could do in the approaching New Year that could make his lousy life better. His ex-girl friend sent him a note one day thanking him for the things she had appreciated about him. He was so moved by this note that he started to write notes of his own. He decided that he would try to write one thank-you note to someone every day of the year.

At first he kept hoping something dramatic would happen. Maybe his life would turn around and everything would be fine. That didn’t really happen to start with, but John kept at his note writing. His thank-yous were not long---usually not more than four or five lines. He wrote them by hand because he wanted them to be personal.

He wrote to loved ones—his boys that were grown. He wrote business associates and friends that had made a difference in his life. Some he had not seen for a long time. As he opened his eyes and looked around him he slowly realized that he had been showed with a great many blessings that he had just ignored.

This is really a book about gratitude. There is no quick fix here—as if there ever was. This is simply the story of a man in deep trouble that found by changing the lenses through which he looked at life completely changed him. Some of the folk he wrote to had never received a thank-you note from anyone. He discovered that a great many of us feel unappreciated and are starved for simple affirmation.

This book has forced me to think of so many along the way that have made a difference in my life. At the end of the book he did not ride off into the sunset happy and smiling—but his life was forever different because of this simple word he had forgotten. Thanks.

It reminds me of Raymond Carver’s poem, “Gravy.” Carver was a great writer but was an alcoholic that lost about everything that mattered. But the last years of his life he turned things around with the loving help of a woman. I think Carver knew he was dying of lung cancer when he wrote these moving words. They are some of my favorites.

No other word will do.
For that’s what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
He said to his friends. I’m a lucky man. I
‘‘I've had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it.”
             --from A Path to the Waterfall

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