December 17, 2018

"Thanks a Thousand!"

I recently came across a new book called “Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey” written by A. J. Jacobs.  The premise behind the book piqued my interest and this summary is quoted from the inside of the book jacket:  “The idea was deceptively simple:  A. J. Jacobs would thank every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee.  The resulting journey takes Jacobs across the globe and reveals secrets about how gratitude can change us all.”

The summary goes on to explain how Jacobs apparently tracked down farmers, chemists, truckers, etc. – anyone and everyone who had a hand in putting that much appreciated cup of coffee in his hands.  He wanted to learn what makes gratitude so powerful and his experience apparently drove home the fact that gratitude can make our lives happier, kinder and more meaningful.

I requested the book through my local library system and, as I write this post, I’m looking at its cheerfully bright yellow cover as it sits on my desk.  Although I won’t pick it up until I’m finished with the current book I’m reading, it already has me thinking.

During the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the hustle and bustle of life always feels to me like it’s turned up a notch.  I enjoy this period of time to no end – and have since I’ve been a little kid – but I have to work hard to enjoy it quietly and truly savor my experiences to the extent I’d like.  There’s a lot of noise that accompanies the holidays and I don’t mean just the loud kind.  The pressure of “getting everything done” affects many people and I certainly remember what it was like to be working while trying to fit in the shopping, baking, cooking and celebrating that often defines the holidays.  It's easy to forget the reason for the season and, sometimes, the pressure and busyness impacts our attitudes - and not in a good way.  This season of celebration can easily become the season of annoyance when we burn a batch of Christmas cookies and can’t find a parking place at the mall.

“Thanks a Thousand” got me thinking about the holiday season from a different perspective.  Consider the crazy hours some retail stores are open this month and the sales clerks who have just as many items on their To Do lists as you do – but are working extra or longer shifts so that you can buy your gifts.  Consider the Boy Scouts who hold a fundraiser every year, selling fresh cut Christmas trees to families like yours.  They man their lots through all kinds of weather, giving up time with their own families so that yours can find that perfect tree on your annual outing.  Consider the law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who are hard at work while you’re dining, shopping and spending the holiday with your family.  Many years ago, at a relative’s home, a fire broke out while the family was gathered for a Christmas Eve dinner.  Thankfully, no one was injured and the fire was quickly contained by family members, but volunteer firefighters were on the scene within minutes, leaving their own families and celebrations behind to ensure the safety of others.  Consider the “pickers” at Amazon and other retailers, who spend the last weeks of the year running up and down warehouse aisles in a constant race to fill your orders, guaranteed by Christmas.  Consider the UPS, Fed-Ex and U.S. Postal Service staff members who deliver your packages and Christmas cards when they have shopping and cards of their own to deal with.  A number of years ago, late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, I passed a UPS driver who was literally sprinting from his truck to a front porch.  Yes, that family received its package just in time for Christmas, but I wonder what time the driver got home to his family.  Consider the distracted grocery store clerk who, as she’s bagging your turkey and all the fixings, is wondering how she’s going to stretch this month’s salary to include meals and presents for her children.

As much as I hope you all enjoy a delightful holiday season, I also hope that, as you work your way through your errands, prepare for holiday festivities and enjoy the time spent with family and friends, you’ll make it a point to look into the eyes of those around your community who are making your enjoyment of the holiday season possible and extend a warm smile and a heartfelt thank you.  And, if you happen to be one of those people who are working hard to make the season joyful for others, well then, thanks a thousand million! 

Have you have already read “Thanks a Thousand?” Do you have any thoughts on gratitude that you’d like to share?  I’d be interested to hear your opinion, so please feel free to leave a comment below.  Happy Holidays!


  1. It was high time that I was reminded that gratitude is worthy of a broader context than I have been giving it. It was a little like sitting uncomfortably in church when the preacher does a mind-meld with me and is somehow able to zero in on the most egregious of my transgressions of the week. So, I guess I need to add lots of folks to my gratitude list, including you, Mary, for yet another entertaining morsel of well-crafted prose. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    1. I am the last person who would be preaching, Mike, as I often go through the day so focused on what's on my To Do list that I forget to pick my head up and look around. I believe many of us are intrinsically grateful for our blessings large and small but, with the hectic holidays upon us, some of us could use a cold glass of water in the face to stop us in our tracks and help us remember how fortunate we truly are. Picking up this book did it for me. My apologies if you caught some of the splash. Merry Christmas right back atcha!

  2. I so enjoyed reading this, thank you Mary. To your list/the author's list I would add the singers, musicians and performers that makes this season come alive for my spouse and me. We avoid the mall like the plague, but we do frequent as many live holiday performances as possible, none which would be possible without these fine folk. And many of them are put on by unpaid college students to boot. How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy their generosity of time and talent, particularly at this time if year.

    1. Yes, you're absolutely right! Our local college has several holiday performances that are open to the public at no charge. And there are a number of festive events throughout the season in many of the cities and towns in our area that are organized by volunteers - very enjoyable for us, very time-consuming work for them. The list of people who make our holidays so memorable goes on and on. Thanks for sharing, Tamara, and a happy holiday season to you and your family!


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