It is really a rare thing to receive a thank-you note in your mailbox these days.  In your U.S. Postal Service mailbox that is.  I guess we do fairly regularly receive thanks yous and short notes of other kinds in our email inboxes, but to receive a handwritten note…now that is a rarity. 

     I spend too much time in bookstores looking at books and I see so many that I think I want to read.  I really don’t end up buying that many and I must admit that I read even fewer than I buy!  I do not really know what caught my eye with this small book by John Kralik, but I remember noticing it in a store several months ago.  On several trips to various bookstores, I picked up “365 Thank Yous…”, and finally a few weeks ago bought a copy.  I guess it was the idea that is conveyed in the title of how a “simple act of daily gratitude changed my life” that was so interesting.

     As the title makes pretty obvious, the author of this book, John Kralik, decided to write a thank you note every day over the course of the year to different people in his life.  What led to this decision?  Kralik, a 53 year old attorney who owned his own struggling law firm, was at a very low point in his life: emotionally, financially, physically, and in his relationships.  On New Year’s Day 2008, Kralik had planned to go on a hike on the Echo Mountain trail above Pasadena, California with Grace, a young woman with whom he had recently begun a new relationship.  But on Christmas Eve, Grace had broken up with him.  So New Year’s Day arrived and Kralik was as depressed as he had ever been.  But, hats off to him, he decided to go on the hike, anyway.  To go on the walk all by himself.

     On the hike, his mind was consummed with how desperate he felt.  Wanting to be alone, he wandered off the main path and was soon completely lost.  He thought about the fact that it was New Year’s Day and it was a time of new beginnings and of making resolutions.  He continued to ramble along and became more lost.  Kralik writes, “Still not finding the path, I began to slip and stumble in the rough.  As I became more lost and tired, I began to despair of getting home before dark, much less finishing something I started in the new year.”  Making a new years resolution was not a reality for him.  Kralik writes that as he wandered, tired and alone, he “…heard a voice: ‘Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have,’ it said, ‘you will not receive the things you want.’ “  Kralik could not understand this voice or the message, feeling like it made no sense to the thoughts going on his head.

     But the words he had “heard” did not go away.  He traveled on, knowing he had to push on and try to find his way off of the mountain.  He thought of his grandfather for some reason.  He thought of his grandfather who had been an extremely successful  businessman.  Maybe he was thinking of his successful grandfather with some bitterness, but he was reminded of how his grandfather had given his grandchildren silver dollars from time to time.  Kralik received his first silver dollar from his grandfather when he was about five.  His grandfather eventually had twenty-four grandchildren and would share silver dollars with each.  He would tell the children upon giving them a silver dollar that if they wrote him a thank-you letter, he would send them another one.  He told Kralik that “that was the way thank-you letters worked…”  John Kralik remembered that after receiving the first silver dollar he did write a thank-you note and that he promptly received a second silver dollar.  However, he never wrote that second thank you note, and he never received another silver dollar from his grandfather.  So Kralik, alone in the mountains on a quickly fading day, thought of the words he had heard in his mind about gratitude, and then of the thoughts of his grandfather and the silver dollars.  And, he remembered how two years earlier he had his office manager order several hundred note cards, boldly thinking that he would be writing lots of notes in his new law firm.  He knew the note cards had hardly been touched.  He had the idea.  Kralik writes with inspiration that “I would try to find one person to thank each day.  One person to whom I would write a thank-you note.  By the end of the year, I would have used up the stationery.  I would have written 365 thank yous.”

     And so the stage is set.  But still Kralik is doubtful about this resolution.  He wonders if he even has anything to be grateful for.  He did not go straight home and start writing thank you notes.  By the end of the next day, he was apparently as discouraged as ever.  He got home to his apartment complex and struggled with whether or not to even check his mailbox.  If there was anything in the mailbox it would just be bills or junkmail, he thought to himself.  But he decided to check it.  And to his surprise he found that he had a handwritten note.  It was a note from his friend Grace, thanking him for the Christmas gifts he had given her.  She also thanked him for the special time they had spent together on Christmas Eve.  It seemed to be the perfect sign.  He writes, “…it seemed uncanny that Grace had written this note just before I’d determined thank-you notes to be my way out of despair.  By thanking me for a Christmas present, she awakened me to something in my life, however small, for which I could be grateful.  Her note was showing me the first step.  And I was going to take it.”

     John did begin his newly set goal of writing 365 thank-you notes in a year.  On January 3rd, 2008, he wrote his first note and it was to his son, thanking him for the Christmas gift he had given him.  He was on his way.  Through the book, John Kralik writes about the events of his life during the year 2008 and beyond.  He shares the ups and the downs.  He shares about who he would write thank-you notes to and about the reactions he would sometimes get.  It was not an easy thing to write that many notes.  Just thinking of who to write next was not always easy.  But he continued with his project and it really began to bring about positive changes in his life.  It didn’t happen at once, but John’s life began to improve financially, in his health, with his friendships and family, and with his career.  The flyleaf of the book’s dust jacket has this quote, “While John wrote his notes, the economy collapsed, the bank across the street from his office failed, but thank-you note by thank-you note, John’s whole life turned around.

     “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life” is easy to read, yet is interesting.  It is also challenging, offering a simple idea that brought great change to a struggling man’s life.  I know I have heard many times that if we will take our focus off of ourselves and focus on others, our attitudes and our moods will likely be lifted.  While writing a thank-you note to someone every day may not be a solution for you, it should help you think.  Is there a need in your life to express more gratitude to people who you are involved with in different ways?  No doubt, we all should make a much better effort at sharing thankfulness, for things big and small.

     This is an interesting, thought provoking story.  Kralik will keep your attention with the short chapters he writes about his life’s adventures during the year 2008 and how things in his life took a turn for the good.  It won’t take long to read and it will be worth the time.

     On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being great) columbiabookseller gives “365 Thank Yous….” a  4       Pick up a copy at a bookstore or local library.

365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life

John Kralik, author

Hyperion        2010

ISBN 978-1-4013-2405-6

All quotes are taken directly from the book or from the promotions on the book’s dust jacket.

  

    

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