The other night I caught a later train home than usual. Taking a seat across from me were an older couple who had spent the day shopping and sightseeing in the city. I had my nose buried in my laptop but they were so friendly I was only too happy to field their questions starting with whether they were on the right train, and continuing through where I worked and lived.
Along came the conductor – the usual conductor for that train, a guy I have seen now and again over a period of many years. He collected the couple’s tickets, and I showed him my monthly pass and said my usual “Hey, howya doin’.” He smiled and returned the greeting and put one of those little tickets in the clip at the top of the seat, to signal we had paid. I said thanks and he was about to move on to the next seat when the woman across from me turned to me and said, “You must ride this train all the time -- the conductor seems to know you.”
Before I could answer, the conductor turned back and responded. “Actually, he’s almost never on this train,” he said. “You know why I say hello to him? Because when I put that ticket on his seat, he always says,‘Thank you.’ That’s why I remember him."
The woman smiled approvingly and said that my parents must have raised me right, which, of course, is exactly true. Thanks for that, Mom and Dad.
That little interaction, coming so soon before we celebrate my favorite holiday tomorrow, got me thinking about giving thanks out loud, not just in silent thought or prayer. Placing those tickets is just one tiny part of that conductor’s job, but it obviously struck him that someone thanked him for it. To me, his putting that ticket atop my seat is surely standard procedure, but it saves me from having to keep showing my pass, so it’s a courtesy that clearly merits a “thank you.”
I wonder how many times we fail to signal out loud our appreciation for others – not just for the things they do but for who they are. If it feels so special to receive thanks, it should be top of mind to give thanks, yes?
I saw the power of that giving at a Christmas gathering where our host asked us all to pick one other person and tell them what we appreciated most about them. In the same vein, I also noted in a post about Keith Richards’ autobiography that Richards revived the musical career of pianist Johnnie Johnson just by tracking him down and hiring him for a concert. To Johnson, that must have felt an affirmation of his work and artistry. Closer to the business theme of this blog, our company has a recognition program in which we can nominate colleagues for a quarterly award for demonstrating our values, or simply send a quick, formal thank-you note to a colleague (a copy goes to their boss).
This is the season not only to reflect on the blessings in our lives, but to give back to others by showing our gratitude and appreciation. Out loud. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.