Practicing Love

Growing up, the weight of deep obligation haunted me every week following Christmas and my birthday. My mom would provide the small cards, the envelopes, the stamps, even the pen. But what would I say? A lack of words left me with a lack of motivation.

This was the dread of writing thank you notes. I knew I needed to do it, but the only reason I had been given was that I wouldn’t get presents again in the future if a thank you note wasn’t written. Those kind of threats work for a period, but eventually it made me hate the task more. How dare you hold my presents for ransom? What kind of person does that?? Good, solid kid logic there.

I always imagined I would reach adulthood and burn all the thank you notes, refusing to do any more.

The practice is too deeply rooted though. It still is not something I enjoy or look forward to, but once I’m in the middle of it I am reminded of the value of the practice itself.

Thank You Notes

By writing thank you notes, I learned how to express gratitude. It conditioned me to find the good in something, even if it wasn’t what I asked for. Each note grafted writing on to my heart, teaching me how to use words and express myself with the diligent effort of putting pen to paper. As my writing ability improved, the notes themselves became a way to say the words I was too shy to say aloud. Thanks. I love you. You are important.

Now, when I write a thank you note, I try to intentionally do two things:
  1. Show my sincere appreciation.
  2. Affirm that person’s value.
We don’t do these things enough. Whether it be verbally, through text, or by physically writing it out, it can seem awkward to tell someone how you feel and praise them for what they have done. I know not everyone gives or receives love in this way, but perhaps that is because we haven’t practiced it enough.

Imagine a world where we practiced different ways of loving people and learned how to feel love in all those different ways. It requires understanding someone else’s needs, showing concern for their perspective, and being open to a different point of view. The world would be a much lovelier place.

Love, like gratitude, is something that needs to be practiced. It can feel like a burden at first, something you don’t know how to start and resent any obligation to. But those are excuses that create a distance of heart, guarding ourselves to the point that no love can get in and no love can get out.

The world is already dark enough, let us practice living a life that brings more light.

I dare you to do something out of the ordinary to express your gratitude and love for someone else this week. Write a thank you note, do the dishes, give a hug, buy a present. You may not know where to start, but by the act of beginning has a magical way of giving us the momentum to continue.

Practicing love intentionally grows love that then becomes unintentionally easier. Even when the effects aren’t seen immediately, it is always worth the effort.

How do you feel about writing thank you notes?
In what ways do you practice love?