“Your message is coming at a very good time. I need the encouragement. It’s a message from Hashem”
Call me idealistic, optimistic, or impulsive, but the idea popped into my head quicker than my two-year-old could sneak a piece of chocolate. I was turning the big 3-9 (aren’t they all big?), and wanted to do something meaningful to mark the occasion.
The year that had passed, with Covid and Meron and Surfside, had had its definite share of dark and uncertain times. But there were also open and hidden miracles, a plethora of brachos, and moments of long-lasting growth.
With the theme of gratitude percolating in my head, I chose a daunting goal. Over the next 24 hours, the duration of my birthday, I’d try to say thank you to a hundred people who’d made an impact on my life. The number 100 felt challenging yet meaningful, and I was ready to undertake the task.
The first thank-you, the most important, was to Hashem. V’al nisecha shebechol yom imanu. My debt of appreciation toward Hashem could fill volumes. After all, every moment of our lives is sustained only through His kindness.
Moving forward, I reached out to those nearest and dearest to me. I expressed gratitude to my parents for all they’d done for me in the past 39 years (and that’s a lot!), to my in-laws for their support and guidance, to my husband and kids for being the best.
As my list picked up momentum, I mentally calculated where I was holding after every few thank-yous. Number 25 was to a dear teacher and mentor whose classes I’ve been taking for years. “Thank you, Rebbetzin Schwartz, for your powerful and wonderful classes, which I’ve shared with others. You’re truly changing lives.”
She responded, “Your message is coming at a very good time. I need the encouragement. It’s a message from Hashem.”
My close married and single friends and acquaintances were the recipients of general and specific thank-yous — for who they are, the role they play in my life, and all they mean to me. I reached out to one particular older single friend and thanked her for being a role model to me. I praised her positivity, emunah, and connection to Hashem, all of which have enriched my life, just by being friends with her. She very emotionally expressed her own gratitude, showering me with a plethora of brachos for a great year ahead. I felt our friendship was deepened by our exchange.
But around noon, I only had 40 thank-yous under my belt and thought maybe I’d been overly optimistic when setting my goal. Not one to admit defeat, I decided I just had to get more creative, and think outside my little box.
As I scrolled through my contacts, I stopped at the number of a special woman who organizes a weekly Shabbos-cake delivery to families with a sick loved one. She became number 41 in my initiative. “Thank you for keeping up this special mitzvah and giving us all zechuyos.”
Moments later, she responded, “Wow, thanks for being part of it, and for validating it!”
I reached out to my first supervisor in graduate school. “Thank you for all you taught me over the years and for helping me become who I am.”
She responded, “Your words mean so much to me.”
At this point I felt my adrenaline pumping and my heart bursting with appreciation for the meaningful way I chose to celebrate my birthday. I sent out an effusive thank-you to my son’s former tutor who’d made a big impact on his academic success. I thanked a talented photographer whose portrait of my children hanging on the wall gives me immense joy when I look at it, and I thanked the chaperones who watched over my children on a recent class trip.
As my day continued filling up with gratitude, I realized thank-yous are like fireworks. They light up the sky, bringing joy to all those around, brightening the world. Most importantly, they illuminate our inner landscape.
I saw how much my life was positively impacted by so many people around me, and perhaps that was the greatest birthday gift I could ever receive.
As my list grew into the 80s, I looked at the ponytails, cute freckled faces, and crooked kippahs of the little people around me, running, playing and schmoozing. It hit me that my children really deserved a lot of thank-yous. “Shimon, thank you for watching your little sister so I could cook dinner”; “Sarah, thank you for remembering to clear your plate after you eat”; “Dovid, thank you for being on time in the mornings, even when you’re so tired.”
The numbers were going up and up, and the smiles on my children’s faces were growing brighter and brighter. They reflected the genuine desire that all of us have, young or old, to be acknowledged for the good that we do.
The sun was slowly setting, and I had one more thank-you to go. In shock, but delighted I would actually reach my goal, I racked my brain for the final recipient of my birthday initiative. It suddenly occurred to me who that recipient should be. I ran up the stairs and into my room, locked the door, took a deep breath, and looked into the mirror.
“Thank you, Elana, for all that you’ve done this past year. For the mounds of laundry you folded and folded again; for the dinners you made, catering to all tastes and preferences; the noses you wiped; the boo-boos you kissed; and the fights you broke up. Thank you for riding the waves of this past year. You held on tight, even when the waves threatened to overtake you; you utilized strengths you never knew you had; and developed a deep faith that will continue to serve you and your family well.
“I’m proud of you.
“Here’s wishing you a wonderful 40th year!”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 777)
Oops! We could not locate your form.