If you’ve been ready my blog a while you might remember my brother Frits. He passed away almost nine years ago now, but he’s still often in my thoughts. There are so many incredible things he taught me, but one of the most important is to be thankful for the little things.
You see, Frits spent the last several years of his life confined to a wheelchair. While it wasn’t always easy, he chose to focus on the positive side of everything.
This included a deep appreciation for family and friends and especially time spent with babies and children. Adults sometimes get a little uncomfortable around people in wheelchairs, but children just accept things as they are presented and ask the questions that others aren’t sure how to.
He learned to be content, but to still go and do the things he really wanted to – even if it took a little longer than it would an able-bodied person. He loved the quote from Shawshank Redemption, “get busy living or get busy dying.” Frits chose to live – and to be thankful for the life he was given.
He was thankful for the many nurses who came through our lives. He was thankful for me – knowing that I often rearranged my life to be around to help take care of him.
He always found creative ways to thank people that were often quite surprising. He knew how much I enjoyed ballet, so he bought me tickets to the Nutcracker one Christmas. He would pay very close attention to what people said so that he would know exactly what would most speak to that person. It could be a card, or a poem or just the right trinket. One Christmas he bought my mom one of those rakes that you pull a lever on and it catches all the leaves in it’s grip (because he knew how much she disliked raking up leaves).
It was that attention to detail that I’d like to leave you with. Do you REALLY listen to your supporters? Do you know what little thing it is that would speak right to their heart? Would you recognize it if you saw it?
In 2012, I encourage you to speak less and listen more. Find out what hobbies your supporters enjoy, what their kids are up to, what their favorite sports team is. Nothing says thank you more than knowing that someone has paid attention and cares enough to show appreciation in a personal way.
This Thanksgiving season, I thank you for the work you do to support nonprofits and the part you are playing in growing philanthropy around the world. Happy Thanksgiving. And thank you.