I regularly peruse book seller remainder lists for titles that may be of interest to me—or ones that I care about. Not long ago, I noticed A Simple Act of Gratitude, by John Kralik, which I decided to buy. I must confess that I haven’t finished the book (yet!), but it is a sweet little work that has a slightly unusual spin on the notion of living with an “attitude of gratitude.”
The author, a lawyer who’d fallen on personal and professional hard times, inadvertently backed into an unusual form of therapy to bring joy and balance into his life—writing thank you notes. At his low point, a woman with whom he was involved, sent Kralik personal stationery, and her own brief thank you note, as a Christmas present. In receiving the gift, he thought about how long it had been since he’d written a thank you note and what he might have to say “thank you” for at this point in time. After all, it seemed that every part of his life was in some form of crisis. Yet, despite the anxiety and depression he faced, he recalled wisdom shared by his elders….that until you are grateful for what you have, you won’t receive what you want.
So Mr. Kralik’s New Year’s resolution was to hand-write a personal thank you note each day of the New Year. The first were easy: thank you’s for Christmas gifts. Yet, virtually immediately, the karmic gifts started to arrive…..renewed relationships, a reorientation of priorities, and a recognition of the immeasurable blessings of family. The theme reminded me a bit of the wildly popular book The Secret which was on the best seller list a few years ago. The universe, it seems, does return to us what he/we/I “put out there.” And, unlike the daily gratitude list so often suggested by self-help gurus from Oprah on down, this book creates a beautiful ripple of goodwill, directly touching the recipient’s life as he or she receives an unexpected letter in the mail.
I have always been a note writer, but less so these days due to an overly scheduled life and the universal acceptance of email as the preferred means of correspondence. However, I do agree, that there is something profoundly powerful—simple, yet beautiful—about a note where the pen touches the paper. Kralik actually shares some of his thank you notes which are short, direct, and innocently written. Hopefully readers who see the simplicity of his thoughts might have their own anxiety about writing lifted, just a bit.
The book called me to go back through some of my old personal correspondence and pull a few notes of thanks I have received over the years. I don’t know if it is a change in my lifestyle or the decline of my archival practices, but these notes were mostly from last century—literally! In any event, the act of reviewing these letters, from old friends and new, as well as professional associates, was quite meaningful. And so, I resolve, now well into the year, to meet Kralik’s challenge, sending a thank you note each day. Now I must decide to whom I will write. Actually, I think I’m going to find an address for Mr. Kralik and write a thank you note to him.