I am a thank you note writer. Ever since we were kids, my Mom took very seriously the art of the thank you note. Every Christmas gift, every birthday check, we were always instructed to write a handwritten thank you. If the gift was money, she encouraged us to tell the giver what we bought with it or what we would be saving up for. She knew that people liked to know their gift mattered.
I still love to thank people. I have stacks of thank you notes and cards in all different colors and moods for each type of "thanking" occasion. Even now, with the convenience of email, I am still more likely to write a an actual handwritten thank you note and send it in the mail. Because people's gifts do matter to me.
In the wake of my Dad's death and as I've found myself heading up Project Refuge, however, thank you's are more difficult than ever.
It's because they aren't enough. The ways people have reached out or expressed sympathy or helped me wade through the business of running a non-profit have so humbled and blessed me that 'thank you' never seems like it's really saying what it is I really mean.
And what it is I really mean is this: You are helping heal me.
In your texts and phone calls from far and wide the week of my Dad's death. In your cards and hugs and sympathy expressed at the funeral. In your listening when I've needed to talk. In your talking when I couldn't muster up any more words. In your prayers, said for my and my siblings and my Mom, whispered to God on our behalf. In sharing your own grief, your own losses; what a profound way to help me know that we're not alone in this. In your patience when I couldn't seem, rather when I can't still seem some days, to know my up from down. What healing power is in those words, in those heavy sighs, in those sagged shoulders as you say, "I'm so sorry for your loss." In each of these ways, you are healing me and showing me what Jesus looks like. So thank you. Those gifts matter.
And for those of you who have been there up close as I've taken over Project Refuge, when I say thank you, what I mean to say is this: You are growing and humbling me.
In your advice, your wise counsel, your expertise, your experience shared. In your willingness to jump in, to help me and offer your talents. In your listening as I worked out, rather as I'm working out, the emotional struggle of everything taking over my Dad's dream means and the intimidation I feel as I step into the unknown. In what you've produced for this organization, things more beautiful than I could ever produce and things that would make my Dad swell with pride. In your belief in this vision, in the business model, in this cause and what you're willing to do to see it become a reality. What humility is in those sacrifices, that knowledge, that willingness to serve. In each of these ways, you are growing me and humbling me, showing me what the Church looks like. So thank you, because those gifts matter, too.
Thank you for putting on a heart of compassion and kindness and patience. Thank you for bearing with me. Thank you for putting on love.
If I am able to wade through grief at all, it's because of these gifts. If Project Refuge succeeds in any way, it's because of these gifts.
So thank you. What very sweet gifts indeed.