What is one of the purest caring acts a person can give? Is it a job where you get money? A trip around the world? Or is it a piece of jewelry, costing a lot of money? It’s hard to say, because every person is different and perceives acts of kindness a little bit differently. But when breaking down any example of what a person has done that is an act of caring we can follow the metaphorical bread crumb trail to arrive at the core. The gift given was the gift of time. Many people today are on the go, moving from one place to the other. Their faces in smartphones with eyes scanning the pages fluttering by with the flick of a fingertip. It has become more rare to pause and take a moment to share our gratitude with others.
In an article written by Harvey B. Simon, M.D. and published by Harvard Health Publishing, there is a great description of what the word gratitude means. “The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier) Growing up, I was always reminded that if a person gives you five minutes or more of their time, thank them. This can be done verbally on the phone, by email, or even through “snail mail” as a written letter. (Bonus points if it is written legibly by hand). This personal touch and the gift of your time to those that have spent precious moments connecting with you goes a long way.
Acts of gratitude have been shown to have many benefits including improving your health. One such example of this is talked about in an article titled How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain, written by Joel Wong and Joshua Brown for Greater Good Magazine, Science-Based Insights for Meaningful Life. It is here that we see a study on sharing gratitude through writing letters. What was found was that “…when [they] compared those who wrote the gratitude letters with those who didn’t, the gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner. This is striking as this effect was found three months after the letter writing began. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain)
One other note about sharing your gratitude is it is self-perpetuating and a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have spent many hours observing how others and myself are affected by the simple genuine thank you. Often there is a smile and a warming of the eyes that accompanies a thank you in return. Think about the last time you were thanked. How did that made you feel. I bet you are smiling now as you replay that memory.
Unified Caring Association has a history of promoting acts of kindness in their CARE program that helps others share their thanks and gratitude for others. One of these was in response to a natural disaster in California, where many upon many lost their homes and possessions. UCA helped with gathering of donations for the people and their families that were affected. (UCA members can read the full article HERE.) There are so many other articles like this on the UCA’s website. If you want to read more about UCA’s caring acts, there is a snapshot in Caring Actions! Also, UCA has a Caring Challenge where each day has a prompt for a caring act such as thanking someone!
How do we summarize all of this information about gratitude and taking the time to share it? By simply taking that small but important moment to say thank you. Thank you for your time, your attention, and your kindness. Your time is precious, and it is honored with gratitude.