Tuesday, July 14, 2009

From Xu to You and Me.

Xu Niankui is a 76 year old retired teacher in Shanghai who just taught me a lesson. He carries thank you letters that he gives to people who offer their bus seats to him. The Shanghaiist reports that in 1997 a young girl gave him her seat. He spoke with her and found out where she went to school,and sent the school a note about how thoughtful she had been. The school recognized her for her act of kindness.

This was a revelation for Xu, who decided that if people realized how much a simple motion like giving up their seat meant to other people, they would do similar good deeds more.
Xu began bringing pre-written letters with him onto the bus, to hand out to those kind enough to be aware of others. Whenever someone offered their seat to him, he would give them his letter of thanks.

What a fabulous idea!

It is one thing to be thankful, to express gratitude, but quite another to be ready to actually hand someone a thank you note. I am imagining what my thank you note might say. I'd put it in a little card, maybe with a gift certificate for a cup of coffee or tea or whatever at Starbucks, or McDonald's or wherever.

Hello, stranger!
You have just done something kind. I want to thank you. Life is short and it can be full of big problems. But so many of those big problems seem smaller when someone reaches out with a kind word or action on even the smallest of occasions. So thank you for being compassionate and friendly today.
Best wishes!

It will be an interesting experiment. I could surely keep a couple of cards in my purse, zipped in their own area.

Another thing that I have started doing lately, after a friend encouraged me - is that when I receive excellent service, I ask to speak to that person's supervisor and I tell them how well their employee handled the situation. I have done this mostly with telephone customer service. Customer service is notoriously bad these days overall, but how much better could it be if we thanked good people for good service and furthermore let their bosses know?

Now, as a woman who waitressed her way through college and grad school, no amount of notes takes the place of a good tip. But a few words to the restaurant manager about exceptional service is a lovely add-on.

Kindness grows when it is fed. Gratitude is its best nourishment. Xu Niankui hopes that his letters inspire people to even more kindness. I will bet that he is right. He doesn't hand them out frequently -- only about 25 times in two years, but each time they have had meaning.

There is a fine quote by G.B. Stern. "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

In the past I have written about writing a gratitude list -- still a darned swell idea. But this is different. This is a proposition that we start living at the ready to actually express thanks in bigger ways. I suggest we turn into a Thank-You-Waiting-To-Happen.

How might that change how people treat us? What if we entered situations hoping that something lovely happens? I'll wager that changes the energy around us, and gives out spirits something different in a situation. It will communicate a compassionate heart. Energy like that radiates, changes things, makes little corners of the world gentler, better, finer.


How to Say Thank You in Hundreds of Languages


Blogger Jayne said...

Oh, I love this post Mata! What an excellent idea! I always, always tip very generously for good service, but a card with a thank you and a small token of appreciation is a splendid idea! Off to think of what to say and what to put in it.... :c) Love to you my friend, who makes me smile with her joy in giving.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Hi Mata, I came over from Jayne's blog, and am so touched by your post. You have inspired me to follow in these tracks. Thank-you, and blessings to you.

2:51 AM  

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