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With two simple words
May 25, 2009
by Jen Bakken

It is easy to complain.

When something doesn’t go as we feel it should, it can be a real motivator for us to speak up and voice our opinion.

We want to stand up and be heard when we feel we have been wronged or we don’t agree with something.

Since my father’s cancer diagnoses, the Minneapolis VA has been difficult to deal with, to say the least.

Of course I’ve found a way to put my complaints in this column, on his CaringBridge web site, and in countless e-mails or phone calls to multiple people and organizations.

I wanted to scream my dissatisfaction with things from the rooftops!

Lately, my mom has been talking about a nice man who works at the Minneapolis VA in the radiation/oncology department. She said it has been such a relief to have someone be kind, caring, and friendly.

This gave me an idea.

I decided I had to thank this wonderful man. While I was spending so much time on the negative things, the things to be thankful for were somewhat left in the background.

One day, I took a long lunch from work and drove to the Minneapolis VA.

All I knew about this man was that his name was Gerald and the department he worked in. After getting directions to the radiation department, I walked the VA maze with my thank you card in hand.

When I arrived, Gerald was at lunch, so I sat in the waiting room with six veterans and enjoyed talking with them. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit with more veterans – what interesting people they are.

I recognized Gerald immediately, not because I had seen him before, but because my mom had described him perfectly.

After I walked up to him I said, “You must be Gerald. My parents are Steve and Nancy Emery, and they’ve told me you have been very kind to them.

“I wanted to thank you in person, and shake your hand, for being so friendly and nice to them. I drove all the way in from Delano because it was important to me that I thank you for treating veterans and their families with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

We shook hands. I think he was a bit shocked and didn’t know what to say, but I could tell that being thanked meant a lot to him.

Not only did I attempt to make him feel good about a job well done, but I felt good as well. He truly deserved to be thanked.

This made me think.

How often do we waste all of our energy on complaining? How often do we show appreciation for those around us?

When a waitstaff at a restaurant messes up an order or a person in customer service is rude – we move quickly to complain. But when they do their jobs well, or go above and beyond the call of duty, do we make sure to thank them?

There are definitely things that should be complained about and we should stand up for our rights, but maybe if we spent more time being grateful for the good things, even the little ones, the world would become a better place.

Quite possibly those people who aren’t kind, the ones we’d like to scream about, would strive to do better because they’d know it does matter.

Similar to using positive reinforcement with children, maybe if more time and energy is spent on those who deserve it, maybe those who don’t would try to change.

Here’s a Tiny Tales challenge – look around you today, take note of who has earned your gratitude and let them know.

Just maybe we can make the world a little better with two simple words – thank you.