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The envelope had a return address I didn’t recognize. When I opened it, I found an uncashed $300 check that I had issued two months ago. It was being returned with a post-it that read, “I wish you luck with the good work you’re doing with Latinos in College (LIC).”
My jaw dropped. The note was from Russ Haven, an attorney in Albany who my cousin Geoff Boehm (who’s been working pro-bono for LIC) had asked for help with the process of incorporating LIC as a not-for-profit organization. I was so moved by his act of kindness that, right after I sent him a big thank-you note, I made a mental list of the many small and big gestures of this kind that I had encountered during the past year.
There were many, in both my private and professional lives. From an anonymous nomination for an award, to warm introductions to high-profile connections, to a compliment at the right time, to flowers left by my door by a grateful friend.
From students and professionals who lent their time and energy to my causes, to invitations to exciting concerts and surprise tickets to the hardest-to-get Broadway shows. From friends who’ll do anything for me even before I ask, to strangers who amplify my message through their social media support. Many powerful new partnerships and new opportunities.
I’m sure you received similar gifts during 2011, but you may have been too busy keeping all the balls in the air to stop and thank the people who made your days more joyful or who made a difficult task seem easy. So I propose that, rather than continuing with the tradition of creating a silly New Year’s resolutions’ list, (which we all know nobody remembers come February), we create a Gratitude list. If you start a fresh list on January 1 and record every act of kindness big or small that someone does for you throughout the year, then next December you will have a wonderful list of people to thank with a card, a phone call or a gift.
Life being a two way street, this exercise helped me reflect about my own behavior toward others. Did I do enough? Did I help everyone within my possibilities? Did I turn a blind eye to someone who I could have lent a hand to? And, although inevitably there’s a limit to how many people each one of us can help, these questions will keep me (and you, if you chose to join me) on my toes, watching out for opportunities.
Generosity is the grease that makes the world go round. We should practice it daily and recognize when others are generous with us. So to all of you who have brought joy to my life and work in 2011, “Thank you.”
Mariela Dabbah is the CEO of www.Latinosincollege.com, a renown speaker, media contributor and award-winning author. Her new book: Poder de Mujer will be released March, 2012 by Penguin.
Follow her on Twitter at @marieladabbah and Like her FB page: Facebook.com/marieladabbah