Small words, big im­pact

A sim­ple ges­ture has the po­ten­tial to go a long, long way.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By TAN YONG LIM

ON Nov 26, 2009, two small words had such a big im­pact on my life – I dis­cov­ered the power of say­ing “thank you” to some­one, from an el­derly lady.

That Thurs­day morn­ing, which also hap­pened to be Thanks­giv­ing Day in the United States, I was ter­ri­bly up­set and dis­ap­pointed with my­self. For a cou­ple of months, my life had not been go­ing well for me. I was hav­ing some work-re­lated prob­lems and I had a tiff with my wife the day be­fore over fi­nan­cial mat­ters. I was alone, hav­ing my break­fast at a food court lo­cated near a wet mar­ket in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, when I saw an el­derly lady ac­ci­den­tally drop her purse on the floor just next to where I was sit­ting.

I picked up the purse and handed it back to her. She beamed as she looked right into my eyes, paused for a mo­ment and then ut­tered, “thank you”.

It was not the usual po­lite “thank you” we ca­su­ally ex­change ev­ery day; I could sense it was a heart­felt grat­i­tude. She was gen­uinely thank­ful for what I had done for her. Her ex­pres­sion of grate­ful­ness touched me. Sud­denly I felt good about my­self. It changed my mood for the bet­ter, I did not feel down in the dumps any­more.

I was sur­prised a com­mon cour­tesy could lighten my spir­its and im­prove my sense of self-worth.

Then I re­mem­bered the quote, “Peo­ple will for­get what you said. Peo­ple will for­get what you did. But peo­ple will never for­get how you made them feel.” So, it was not just the words the lady said but how her words made me feel that I ap­pre­ci­ated.

That day when I left for work, I re­minded my­self to say thank you and write thank-you cards to peo­ple more of­ten. I have been do­ing it ever since. When I tell my friends that I be­lieve that we all can help spread good­will and hap­pi­ness in our com­mu­nity by merely thank­ing some­one, many of them scoff at my sug­ges­tion. But while I am fully aware that not ev­ery­one will ap­pre­ci­ate it, I will not beat my­self up over it, just be­cause they ig­nore or laugh at my seem­ingly silly act.

It doesn’t take much of my time to say thank you so there’s re­ally noth­ing to lose. To me, the im­por­tant thing is not to get dis­cour­aged. I would be ly­ing through my teeth, if I say sud­denly all our prob­lems will be solved and we feel on top of the world all the time, just be­cause we go around say­ing thank you and feel­ing grate­ful.

The sec­ond time I met the same lady again, she was en­joy­ing a cup of tea alone at the same food court. She recog­nised me and in­vited me to join her for break­fast. We started chat­ting and I found out that her name was Aunty Rosie Choong and she speaks flu­ent English. Aunty Rosie was in her late 60s and she lived with her chil­dren. She used to work as an il­lus­tra­tor for var­i­ous pub­lish­ing firms back in the 1970s.

Since Aunty Rosie loves to draw, she still dab­bles in wa­ter­colour paint­ing in her spare time.

She chuck­led when I told her about our first en­counter that morn­ing and how it had changed my life in some way. “Oh yeah? I didn’t know this old lady still has some new tricks up her sleeve,” Aunty Rosie re­marked in jest.

She went on to tell me that most of us take things for granted. We don’t bother to ac­knowl­edge and show ap­pre­ci­a­tion for oth­ers; we as­sume show­ing grat­i­tude is just a mat­ter of hav­ing good man­ners. In fact, it is more than that. It is about show­ing re­spect and car­ing for oth­ers. When you feel grate­ful, you are mo­ti­vated to share the good­ness you have re­ceived with other folks.

Aunty Rosie shared with me an in­ci­dent where writ­ing a thank-you card can be a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It hap­pened to her late hus­band’s col­league, Kim, who worked as a car sales­man in Pe­tal­ing Jaya back in the early 1980s.

One day, he at­tended to a cus­tomer who wanted to buy a car for his wife. Un­for­tu­nately, Kim did not man­age to make any sale that day. But Kim got the cus­tomer’s name card, so he sent him a thank-you card, like what he did to all his other prospec­tive clients. Two months later, Kim re­ceived a sur­pris­ing call from the same cus­tomer. He had rec­om­mended two of his friends to him. This time, Kim suc­cess­fully made some good busi­ness.

So, why did that cus­tomer bother to be help­ful and to in­tro­duce Kim new buy­ers? Kim found out it was his thank-you card that ac­tu­ally did the trick.

And just be­fore Aunty Rosie Choong bade me good­bye, she said, “Thank you for shar­ing your time with me.”

Some­thing as sim­ple as say­ing ‘thank you’ can have a pos­i­tive af­fect on a per­son.

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