Lessons From A Year of Thanks

Words by Gina Hamadey

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We see it over and over again: The little things really are the big things. And when we take the time to find recognition for those people, places, and moments that slowly fill up our cup — our gratitude expands. That's why upon hearing about Brooklyn-based Gina Hamadey's story, we knew we had to share. She's filled her past year writing one thank you note per day, 365 in total. We think her journey of finding gratitude in everything will inspire you to put a little pen to paper yourself — get a peek into the lessons she's learned below.

Lesson #1

Finding hundreds of people to thank is not as tough as you might imagine.

Throughout the year, I dedicated each month to one theme, as an organizing principle to help keep me on task. In my "food" month, I thought back to meals that meant a lot to me, and remembered the night my husband and I celebrated our sixth anniversary at our favorite restaurant. The chef sent out her famous biscuits in the shape of a Roman numeral VI, which made us feel so special. I became more adept at retrieving memories like these, and it turned out that I had more than enough people to thank.


Lesson #2

People are doing nice things for you all of the time.

While it was a meaningful exercise to remember all the wonderful things people have done for me in the past, I noticed that most favors were more recent. During that same “food” month, for example, I was eating at a local deli with my two-year-old, Charlie, when he toppled off his stool and onto the floor. It was one of those guilty parenting moments where your brain beats you up: He could have really gotten hurt! How could you let a two-year-old talk you into a precarious situation? The co-owner was so kind to Charlie—cleaning him up with wet paper towels—and to me (“That happened to my kid once”). He made us both feel better. These kind gestures were more common than I'd imagined—and it was gratifying to acknowledge them a tangible way.


Lesson #3

A “thank you” has no statute of limitations.

Some of my thank yous went back decades. In my “travel” month, for example, I wrote a note to my dear friend Grace, who was the perfect travel partner when we both lived in Florence in college. She told me that she kept the note on her counter for a week or two, and that every time she saw it she felt a little surge of happiness.


Lesson #4

A lot of people are going through a difficult time.

I’ve received so many lovely responses to my notes — cards, voicemails, emails, DMs. And more often than I could have anticipated, the reaction included some variation of, “This came at the right moment, because I’m going through a difficult time right now.” Some people were experiencing a downswing in their career; some were in the midst of personal difficulties. I felt privileged to be invited into that vulnerable space with someone I care about. How incredible that something so small, that took me maybe eight minutes to write, could give someone a lift when they needed one.

How incredible that something so small, that took me maybe eight minutes to write, could give someone a lift when they needed one.


Lesson #5

Kids can be taught gratitude.

I’ve involved my five-year-old, Henry, in the project from the beginning. He helped me write the initial batch of January thank you notes to people who contributed to our fundraiser; he dictated 11 notes to his favorite authors in my “books” month. I believe the gratitude lesson is sinking in. On Thanksgiving, he asked me to take a video of him to send to his teacher. I pressed play and he yelled, “I am grateful for YOU, Ms. Scheldt!”


Lesson #6

You are one thank you note away from a good mood.

Writing a thank you note gives me an immediate lift when I'm feeling blue. It's time spent focused on something purely positive. It's been a form of therapy.

It's time spent focused on something purely positive. It's been a form of therapy.


Lesson #7

A thank you note is better than a gratitude journal.

More people seem to be keeping gratitude journals, and that's a beautiful thing. But a thank you note offers benefits for the recipient, as well as the writer. Why keep your feelings trapped inside a book beside your bed? Why not send your gratitude out into the world to see what good it can do?


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