November 24, 2021
“Let’s go down that way!” My friend, Tammy, pointed to a specific trail that led down to a nearby park from the woods. She hesitated so that I could go in front, which I thought was strange but I pressed on anyway.
Keeping my eyes on the ground I found the trail and began to descend. Half way down a flash of light flickered out of the corner of my eye. I looked up and there, at the end of the path, were several of my friends standing about ten feet apart.
One by one they read letters they had written to me.
I stood in humble awe as I received this incredible gift. Not only did they write letters, but they were reading them to me in real time. This incredible act of kindness is forever rooted in my heart.
Leading researcher, Dr. martin E.P. Seligman, a psycholgist at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a study measuring the impact of various positive psychology interventions.
The assignment for the control group was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness.
The results were staggering. Happiness soared in the control group after the exercise, with benefits lasting for A MONTH.
Each participant recounted their experience, noting that both the giver and the receiver ended up in tears.
It’s powerful, and sometimes even life changing, when we show up for one another. And it’s just as powerful when we return with specific and deep gratitude.
My friends and the participants in the study completed what I call a “slingshot gratitude.” Slingshot gratitudes are clear actions that acknowledge a kind act in a specific manner. Think of a slingshot. It has one rock or object that aims at a specified target. It flies out of the sling towards a direct hit.
Slingshot gratitudes have the following elements:
- a specific action
- to a specific person
- in a determined time
- for a specific reason
Gratitude in a general sense doesn’t change us or have any real impact on another. It is when we get directed and specific that it holds significant power.
Think of someone you have never thanked for their kindness, service, action, or impact. What “slingshot gratitude” can you do for him or her? Don’t wait. There is never a perfect time to do anything. Make the call. Write the letter. Drive the basket to their house. Make the invitation to dinner.
Thankfulness is a mark of maturity for people who love God. It shows deep humility as we accept our portion and our cup. It demonstrates a mindset of generosity rather than scarcity. And it reveals our trust in God as we focus on the gifts given rather than those absent.
Colossians 2:6-7 says “Now that you have welcomed the anointed one, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with him and allow him to shape your lives. Let your roots grow down deeply in him, and let him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.”
There is something about gratitude that helps us stay firmly planted on a firm foundation. It changes and transforms us as we practice it day after day.
May we all be people who spill over with thankfulness.