Recently, my friend from grad school, Lisa, visited me. I’d not seen her in quite a few years, and we had just finished eating dinner one evening when she first arrived. I took up Lisa’s dinner plate and offered her the mug of tea when she said, “You’re so good to me.” The words took me aback because the gesture was a simple one, and yet there she was naming how she not only noticed it, but took it in personally and felt grateful for it. The words made me feel light. I asked her about where she came up with such a phrase, as I’d never heard it before. She explained that she had picked up the phrase from a former teacher she used to work with, and she began using the phrase herself. The idea of the phrase stuck with me as I had hearing her say them to me felt so refreshing. They made me feel somehow lighter.
Later, Lisa and I went downtown to the bookstore. I pulled in to the parking garage, but wasn’t quite close enough to grab the ticket from the machine. Since it was the first day the garage was charging for parking, a parking lot attendant was present at the entrance to the garage. She saw my dilemma, pulled the ticket from the booth and handed it to me. It was a thoughtful gesture, and I decided I would use Lisa’s phrase, “You’re so good to me,” and when I did, her whole expression lit up and she came alive. She was no longer simply a parking attendant doing a job, she was a person with a meaningful presence. Her reaction brought home to me the powerful effect gratitude can have on a person’s day, and how I had the power to bring happiness to someone in a very simple yet meaningful way. Now I’m consciously looking for ways I can use this phrase on a regular basis to bring an awareness of other people’s goodness more into their lives–how through noticing people’s work or thoughtfulness in simple ways, I can acknowledge the benefit of other people’s presence in my life.
The short film, Validation, by writer/director/composer – Kurt Kuenne, illustrates in such a delightful way the powerful effect we can have on others lives simply by noticing who they are and naming the positive qualities we observe. It’s worth watching. A parking attendant decides to not simply validate people’s parking stub, but to validate the person him or herself. People come from everywhere just to get validated. The world is hungry for it, the filmmaker shows us. The film helps viewers to understand that by noticing the good in others and calling it to their attention, we can change lives.
This summer I attended the mindfulness training course for educators at UC Berkeley through the Greater Good, and learned some excellent tips for thanking people with power: tell what the person specifically did, tell them how much what they did impacted your day or how it impacted your day, acknowledge the effort the person took. The quality of the thank you is important.
Research done by the people at the Greater Good, shows that those who keep a gratitude journal once a week feel happier than those who don’t. It seems like it might be rather obvious that tuning in to things that we can honestly feel gratitude can help make us feel more whole and happy, but just as Benedictine monk, David Steindl-Rast points out in Jill Suttie’s article, “Is Gratitude the Path to a Better World?” just because we know that we need to eat to survive, doesn’t mean that the study of nutrition can’t give us further insights into what is good for us. Steindl-Rast points out that “Grateful living brings in place of greed: sharing; in place of oppression: respect; in place of violence: peace. Who does not long for a world of sharing, mutual respect, and peace?”
I encourage you to go out and notice what people are doing in the world that you might have previously overlooked, but that you can be grateful for. Purposely look for situations where you can use the phrase, “You’re so good to me,” and thank the person for what he or she is doing. Try it out! I’d love to hear what kind of reactions you get. If you’re like me, you’ll feel a bit happier yourself as well.