Small words, big impact
A simple gesture has the potential to go a long, long way.
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.