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November 2, 2011

Cultivating a Spirit of Thanks, Giving, and Gratitude

Written By: Barbara Gruener
Cultivating a Spirit of Thanks, Giving, and Gratitude -

Thanks, Giving, and Gratitude

If you were arrested for gratitude, would there be enough evidence to convict you?  Kind of a challenging inquiry, I know, but that’s what I’m thinking about as we cruise into the next two months of thanks and giving.  What are you grateful for today?

Douglas Wood, author of The Secret of Saying Thanks, writes this about gratitude, “Perhaps you’d like to know a secret, one of the happiest ones of all.  You will surely find it for yourself one day.  You’ll discover it all on your own, maybe when you least expect it.”  He refers to being thankful as if it’s the best-kept secret around.  I submit that the world would be a better place if, by our actions, we shared the ‘secret’ with everyone we encounter.


How do you show gratitude?  A simple word of “thanks” is one very easy way.  Follow up a kindness with a face-to-face affirmation or a compliment and watch how their face lights up. Write a note of thanks and drop it in the mail. Oh, how I love to receive hand-written notes in my mailbox! Add a window card to give the recipient of your gratitude a little something extra to smile about. Kind of like fortune cookies in that they have a secret message inside, window cards open up to reveal uplifting words of wisdom to reflect upon and enjoy.

The Westwood family writes notes of thanks every year in November to include with the goodies we collect and send to those brave men and women who are serving overseas to keep us safe and free in lieu of spending the holidays in the comfort of their home with their loved ones.  Aptly called Santas for Our Soldiers, this project went from our third grade adopting two soldiers and sending a few dozen boxes their way several years ago to our entire school adopting twenty soldiers and their platoons last year and sending 129 care packages to Iraq and Afghanistan. We partner with The Friendswood Rotary, whose funds help defray the cost of shipping and make this project possible. Each of the past three years, we’ve made contact with a some of our soldiers via Skype and were able to watch them open our boxes live on the big screen during our lunch time.  It totally completes the circle of giving for a child to watch his/her gratitude make such a difference to a hero so many, many miles away right before their eyes. And, in an ironic twist, we hear them thanking us, for remembering them with basic-need and pass-the-time items and honoring them with our kind words and illustrated notes of gratitude.

How else can we express our thanks and appreciation?  We’ve found that Paying It Forward pays us back in dividends we’d never expect. Our knitting club, for example, makes blankets, scarves, and baby hats for people in need.  We knit for service without expecting anything in return, to pay it forward and help improve the lives of others.

Kindness and gratitude work like a boomerang; when good goes, it always comes back around. It makes our hearts happy to give, whether it’s something tangible like a hand-knit item, or something less tangible, like a kind word of thanks.  Douglas Wood summarizes this so eloquently:  We don’t give thanks because we’re happy.  We are happy because we give thanks. Happy Thanksgiving!



About the Author

A bilingual educator who was raised on her family’s farm in Wisconsin, Barbara Gruener has been the counselor and character coach at Westwood-Bales Elementary School in Friendswood, Texas for the past ten years. She’s also a motivational speaker and loves to influence and impact workshop participants in her signature Sing, Dance, Laugh and Build Character sessions. When she’s not at school, Barbara likes to write, read, knit, bake, and spend time with family and friends.  Check out Barbara’s uplifting blog to read her inspirational stories about positive people and elevating experiences.


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  • Crystal Mann
    November 3, 2011

    What a fantastic idea! I can’t wait to use it! We havent got any snow here in Canada yet but it’s coming….

  • Ellen
    November 2, 2011

    Great article! Thank you for sharing. Last year my second grade class became pen pals with many soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. I started it because a friend of mine was stationed there, and it just kind of grew. Now that my friend is back, his brother is there, and my current class has just shipped their first packages overseas. I hope that I have instilled some sense of pride and obligation into my students towards our servicemen and servicewomen. I definitely have a much deeper appreciation for them that I have in the past. Thank you!

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