Last week, on a day when I felt especially anxious, after having listened to way too much cable business news, I decided to do laundry — something practical. My condo building has two laundry rooms on each floor.
I did a load, later tossed it into the dryer, and then did what annoys me when other people do this — I forgot about my clothes! Almost two hours later, when I went to retrieve them, I found a pile of my clothes neatly folded in the basket. What a great gift for a guy who seldom folds his laundry.
Just then, along came the cleaning lady who works for my neighbor. She smiled and set about taking my neighbor’s clothes from the dryer. When I thanked her for her kindness, she said it was nothing and went on her way.
This woman’s thoughtfulness jolted me out of the pity party I’d been hosting all week. She wasn’t being paid to do my laundry and could have dumped my clothes on top of the dryer. However, whatever her own worries might be, they didn’t prevent her from acting beyond self-interest.
The sight of my neatly folded laundry invited me to consider how I’ve allowed these days of economic turmoil to make me self-absorbed. Without realizing it, this cleaning woman invited me to consider how I’ve been tending to relationships — family, friends, and business associates.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and while it’s good and needed to give thanks, I’m not sure thanks alone is enough. How do you show thanks when you’re giving thanks? There are many simple things we can do to reassure people we care: answering e-mails and phone messages in a timely way; being available to people seeking out our help; rousing ourselves when we want to isolate; paying kindness forward.
Caring is the greatest act of thanksgiving.
Here’s a Thanksgiving exercise to help you put your thanks into action as you recommit yourself to the people in your life. Consider these questions:
On what have you been obsessing lately? In what ways has this taken you away from tending to your relationships — professional and personal? What simple steps can you take to reconnect and remind people that you’re grateful for them?
Can we still be gracious and generous with friends and family — and even with strangers? Do we have it in us to offer kind surprises and expect nothing in return?
Although it might seem a tad sappy to quote Mother Teresa in a Thanksgiving column, I’m going to go ahead and share what is one of my favorite quotes: Be faithful in small things because it’s in them that your strength lies.
So, whose laundry can you fold?
Please send your communication questions to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org