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The Importance of Saying Thank You | Madeline Cowen

December 4, 2013

A sophomore raised in Miami, FL, Maddi is a declared English major but is also considering biology, chemistry, math, environmental analysis, and linguistics as potential areas of study.

I’ve always valued the Draper Center’s emphasis on reflection—reflection on effectiveness of service, on the success of a program, on personal growth, on any facet of community engagement and how we interact with the world around us—and one of the lessons I’ve learned this year as a new student coordinator is that setting aside time to analyze the work I’ve done is an important priority for me. Reflections are the times to evaluate the assumptions I have and to notice trends in my life, and last week, during our weekly Draper Team meeting, the opportunity to reflect on my experience at the Draper Center led me to what might seem like an obvious conclusion: it’s important to say thank you.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve lived most of my life thanking people in the appropriate situations, and I often make it a point to let people know that I appreciate them. Reminding people that they are special, that their time and effort and presence are valued has always been important to me, but since working at the Draper Center, I’ve been continually impressed by the extent to which the people I work with thank each other.

At first, I thought I couldn't tell if the Draper Center staff and the other student coordinators thanked each other out of conscious formality, or if it was something they had picked up in their time working at the Draper Center—or maybe both. And it did seem to me to be formal; they thanked everyone for sharing, for participating, for responding, for sending an email, for spending time, for helping, for listening, for answering a phone call… I could only explain the consistency with which they expressed thanks, even over very small things, with politeness and formality. But, each thank you was not said thoughtlessly. I could tell that they were genuinely grateful and respected each other.

What caught my attention was that this surprised me. Yes, I, too, thanked people, but apparently not as much as I thought I did. I think I often assumed that the people I worked with could pick up on my gratitude, or were aware of the value of their work and understood that sometimes saying thank you was unnecessary. I saw this in myself; to be thanked for doing my work surprised me because I assumed that my work was expected of me, with consequences for not doing it rather than thanks for completing tasks.

The shift I now am trying to embrace is one toward direct, open thanks. Even if a thank-you seems unnecessary, I try to say it anyway, because even if someone may laugh at how formal it sounds, they will still internalize the sentiment, and a thank-you can truly help fuel enthusiasm, passion, and energy. Voicing my thanks ensures that I won’t take other people for granted, and also allows me to notice all of the great moments and people in the communities around me worth appreciating.

As we went around the room in this week’s meeting giving updates and reflections on our ongoing projects, I thought about all of the work being done. Hundreds of students are involved in Draper Center programs, and hundreds of people put in time and effort. Their motivation is impressive and their involvement invaluable, and I feel comforted by the fact that they interact with student coordinators who will express thanks.
So, in the spirit of reflection and personal growth, I intend to make “thank-you” a larger part of my interactions with volunteers and community partners—I even made the “Thank You” message in the Draper Weekly a permanent feature of the newsletter, because I know the Draper Center really does appreciate all of the groups involved in its programs.

P.S. As a final note… Thank you for reading this.

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