The last time I posted here (it has been longer than it should have been) I spoke about the Importance of Compliments. I still think that compliments are under-utilized in the modern world and I further believe that our lives are the poorer for their absence. Today I want to focus on a little different area, the area of giving thanks.
Thanks is often a topic discussed with some regularity around the later months of the year (November and December). During these months we are brought to a realization of all that we have been blessed with, given, offered and achieved throughout the year. Compounded by the holiday season, we often dwell on being thankful at those times. I was reminded of the importance of sincere thanks during the past weekend as my family gathered in the living room to watch the Academy Awards.
Anybody who has ever watched an awards program on television knows the eye-rolling that is often induced by celebrity acceptance speeches. We are so calloused towards these often insincere offerings of gratitude that we relish watching these celebrities getting “played off” the stage before they have completed their remarks. A similar phenomenon occurred in our house on Sunday night. As various celebrities that we didn’t know came across the stage to accept awards; unbeknownst to them, they would be greeted by a muttered “hurry up!” or “enough already.”
I don’t blame the reactions to these speeches that came from my family. If you consider the shotgun approach to gratitude that is employed at these events, it is difficult to place true value on the statements and sentiments offered. As humans I think we have a pretty consistent gratitude radar. That is, we know honest thanks when we see it.
With this in mind, I was recently reminded of one of my favorite acceptance speeches from a celebrity. It was offered in 1997 by Fred Rogers (1928-2003). You may remember Mr. Rogers and his sweater changing ways from your youth. I spent many hours with Mr Rogers, Lady Aberlin, Mr. McFeely, and King Friday XIII. Mr Rogers received his award at the Daytime Emmy’s, you can catch the whole speech and presentation here thanks to the wonders of YouTube.
I was living in France at the time of this awards ceremony (not that I would have likely been watching anyway) but I remember a friend of mine brought up an article from Esquire that described the acceptance speech in beautiful prose. This was written by Tom Junod:
“Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award—and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”
And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, “I’ll watch the time.”
There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked.
And so they did.
One second, two seconds, three seconds—and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier.
And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly “May God be with you,” to all his … children”
I loved that the Mr Rogers I knew from my childhood mornings was the real Fred Rogers that loved his wife, appreciated his friends and after all that life had offered him, remained thankful. So, today, I ask those who happen to read my little blog to think about gratitude. Consider those to whom you should be thankful. There are so many in each of our lives who have “loved us into being.” I am thankful to so many friends, mentors, and family members. Although I may not have the ability to thank them all here, rest assured, thanks to them my heart is full today.