"Who does not thank for little will not thank for much." ~ Estonian Proverb
When I noticed the neighbor's house was unusually dark and their van was curiously missing from the driveway, I knew something wasn't right.
It's not that we talk everyday or every week, for that matter. It's just that I had come to count on their presence day in and day out like a wall of security.
Shook up, I asked around and learned that he fell and broke his hip. She doesn't drive, so their son was using the van to transport her back and forth to the hospital for dialysis and to visit her husband.
For nearly 35 years, I had taken these neighbors for granted without even realizing it. My gratitude for them suddenly became inestimable. Nervous over their health issues, I stopped what I was doing and rapped on their door.
That was in March. Since then, I remain startled by the feelings of loss this awakening provoked and find myself calling on the elderly couple more often.
But now that it is Thanksgiving, it's hard to focus on anything other than where to have dinner and who's coming.
Although, underneath my plans for Turkey Day, a renewed consciousness elbows me to demonstrate more gratitude to my husband, my children and my neighbors. Sometimes it takes courage to outwardly express thanks.
Bonnie Ceban, author of "101 Ways to Say Thank You," offers advice on how to show gratitude.
What I love about Ceban's instructions is that her ideas are simple; most of them cost nothing except time.
Of course, with my consumerism DNA, I naturally think I have to spend money to show appreciation. However, in reality, there are far more meaningful ways to say "thank you."
Besides the usual verbal affirmation, I am considering putting into practice several of the author's less obvious suggestions.
With a little practice and more courage, I'm going to show my appreciation by doing someone's chores, paying more attention and smiling more.
Oh, yes, and I'm not going to wait until the lights go out and the car is gone to show how much I care.
[Thank you to my many readers. You are the reason I rise early and stay up late to listen for the soothing and sometimes pained voice of stories untold. For you, I am grateful.]
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her blog at www.my-story-your-story.blogspot.com and find her on Facebook.
2009© Paula Damon