The Power of Simply Saying Thanks
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2 (NIV)
"Wait … where is she going?" I asked my then college boyfriend.
We were strolling with his parents at a festival celebrating Michigan’s abundant cherry harvest when his mom — who had been explaining the difference between tart and dark cherries — stopped talking mid-sentence and darted off.
I watched her weave through the summertime crowd until she reached her destination. She stopped at the side of a serviceman in uniform and spoke a few words to him. She then gifted him with an impromptu hug and returned to my side where she finished her explanation to me without missing a beat.
For over a quarter century I’ve watched my (now) mother-in-law thank servicemen and women whenever she sees them. It can be in the middle of a busy grocery store or in the bleachers of a Friday night football game. She will stop whatever she’s doing, walk over to the person and simply say, "Thank you for serving our country." And then — whether they want it or not — she will present them with one of her grateful hugs.
Often when she turns to walk away from the soldier, tears fill her eyes. "I tell you," she’s declared on more than one occasion, "these young men and women can’t ever be thanked enough for all they do for us civilians. We take them for granted every day!"
Her kind gesture touched my heart the very first time I witnessed it. It also inspired me to want to do the same. However, although I am an outgoing and rather chatty gal, I felt a little awkward the first time I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t exactly sure what response I would get from the soldier. Would my words tumble out of my mouth clumsily? Would there be a strange silence? I determined to push past the awkward and try it anyway.
I am thrilled to report that, without fail for over 25 years now, I have been greeted with a smile and heartfelt words of appreciation for stopping what I was doing to take time to simply thank a serviceman or woman for sacrificing for our country.
Today’s key verse tells us the importance of living a prayerful life of observation and thankfulness: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Colossians 4:2).
Learning to take notice of those who serve in our midst and then thanking them can help to grow our prayer life. Often after these encounters, God brings the person back to my mind. I then whisper a prayer for their safety, asking God to make Himself very real to them and sustain their loved ones while they are apart during deployment.
Because I was watchful and noticed them, and then displayed my thankfulness, I also was granted the honor of praying for these servants.
But it isn’t just soldiers who do the serving. Think through your life on an average day. Who comes across your path? Do you spy the garbage collector faithfully keeping the city clean? The elderly crossing guard safely helping the children scoot across the street to school each morning? The gas station attendant or grocery store clerk doing their job with a smile?
Has it ever crossed your mind to simply thank them for what they do so faithfully, without any fanfare? Could you carve out a minute or two in your schedule to add them to your prayers?
Let’s use Colossians 4:2 as a template for our ordinary day today. Be prayerful. And watchful. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to tap you on the heart, and prod you to simply say, "Thank you" to someone who serves. Someone who least expects to be noticed and thanked (or maybe even hugged). Then, remember them before your Father as you mention them in prayer.
The small pause in your day and kind gesture of your heart is sure to bring a smile. To their faces … and to yours.
Father, may I be one who notices a servant today and stops to genuinely thank them. May they sense Your immense love through my simple gesture. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (HCSB)
For more creative and simple ideas on how to reach out to those who serve us daily, on Memorial Day and throughout the year, visit Karen Ehman’s blog.
To be inspired to live a life that is others-centered, check out Karen’s book A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think through your ordinary schedule this week. Where will you go? What service providers are you likely to encounter? Jot down one or two of them (even if you don’t know their names) on your calendar or in the notes app on your cell phone.
Brainstorm a few simple phrases you could say to show others your appreciation for what they do. Then, make a point to push past awkward, follow through and do it!