One of my assignments at Hope College is to serve as co-advisor to our chapter of Mortar Board. Mortar Board is the premier national honor society recognizing college seniors for superior achievement in scholarship, leadership and service.
I get such a charge working with these students. They are highly motivated, unbelievably intelligent and intentional about everything they do. Make no doubt about it: they keep me on my toes.
Each year we kick off our activities with a retreat held at the home (i.e. farm) of my co-advisor. She and her husband are two of the most gracious hosts I’ve met and roll out the red carpet for these 35 kids each and every time. This professor and her husband are my role models for hospitality.
So the Monday after this year’s annual retreat, I sent this email to the 35 members of Mortar Board on our campus:
One of the habits I started early in my career was to attempt to write a thank you to someone each morning. That was long before the Internet was even an idea so I hand wrote them. I still hand write them most mornings. It's a habit that has served me well: It forces me to start the day on a positive note. It makes me think about the impact people have had on my life. It reminds me to nurture a spirit of gratitude.
All this is to suggest that I would encourage those of you who attended last Sunday's retreat to write a thank you note to your host and hostess. It really was an incredible afternoon and didn't happen by itself. If you don't have appropriate notecards, you know what to ask for at Christmas (personalized stationary is a very nice touch). Notecards are sold everywhere. Some of you may decide an email is sufficient. And while I'm confident Mortar Board's secretary will send a note on the group's behalf, people who are as gracious and hospitable as your advisor can't be thanked enough. I’ve attached their address at the bottom of this email for your convenience.
So that's my attempt to jump-start your habit of gratitude. You have an assignment for Day 1. Who are you going to thank Day 2?
I wondered how my email would be received. Would the advisor get any thank you notes? Well at the chapter meeting a couple of nights later, I was heartened that the group’s secretary passed around a wonderfully creative thank you card that she hand made for our host and hostess. That was a great start.
Then before the meeting started, the young man seated next to me, an engineering major, leaned over and said, “Thanks for that great email on thank you notes.” I was encouraged! I guess I had broken through to at least one of the students. “Oh, you liked it?” I said with a little more pride in my voice than I deserved. “Yeah,” he replied. “I sent it to my fiancé and told her she ought to start doing this!”
I guess we never know whose lives we’re going to touch. But even if it’s not who or what we expected, we can still give thanks.