Written By Agnes Poliquin
BIO: Just a single girl trying to find her way in the world
Imagine traveling to visit your family, with the reluctance of a forced formal dinner. Yet, as you apprehensively sit down and look around the table when said dinnertime occurs, you notice your younger relatives have their faces fastened to tablets, phones, or some other electronic equivalent. Surely, the light blue glow must go away once dinner is served? Nope, somehow these young people try to manage to multi-task their eating habits around their digital interactions.
Meet Generation Y: The group of people born in the late 1980s to early 2000s, who are typecast as clutching every available opportunity to whimper about their pitiful and difficult lives, usually on social media. Generation Y (Gen Y or more commonly known as Millennials) members are also seen as those who learn nothing from the past. They are unable to balance their money, so after college graduation, they move in back with Mom and Dad. Yet, spoiler alert * I am part of the Gen Y category and I would advocate that I am not adding to said negative stereotype about my generation. Though I do recognize the irony of writing about not complaining often, by complaining about that through this writing…
Yet, as part of the supposed stained Gen Y group of millennials, I have found the opportunity of breaking stereotypes to be quite fun, and even enlightening. The best example came recently, during the Catholic/Christian observance of Lent. Lent lasts approximately six weeks ending on Easter Sunday regularly taking place in the springtime. Traditionally, the purpose of Lent is to reflect through prayer and self-denial, requiring observers to ‘give up’ something for the six week period. Many of my friends, coworkers, acquaintances choose to participate in Lent though they are not Christian or sometimes religious in any form. I choose to participate in Lent during last March, instead of removing something from life in order to trigger self-reflection, I would add something instead. For the 40 days of Lent (two Sundays not included) I would write 40 hand-written notes of gratitude.
Letter writing in itself shocked people. How it is fathomable that someone of my Generation would be able to HAND-WRITE a note legibly and not text or email it? Ah yes, the shock factor. Can you begin to see the Gen Y stereotype breaking? As I began to write letters to my colleagues, my relatives, my friends, my neighbors, my boss, I found the process to be cathartic, while simultaneously improving my cursive. It will come as no surprise then, the action of displaying and exercising gratitude has positive effects on the practitioner. The most poignant part about it? Seeing the reactions of those who read my cards. Although admittedly, some people read my cards and tossed them aside like they had no power or force of their own. Nonetheless, the majority of my 40 thank you note recipients even thanked me for writing them a “thank you” card. Does that make sense? But I couldn’t help but think of how bizarre that reaction is. “Thank you for taking the time to thank me with a thank you note.”
Too habitually, people are not thanked or appreciated for being friendly, gracious or even helpful. We often take it as part of politeness or being professional in the workplace. We offer a quick and default “thanks for your help,” sometimes not thinking about the interaction ever again. Writing 40 thank you notes not only allowed me to spread gratitude to those I did not immediately think of, but to do so easily. The act of writing one “thank you” took me at most, a grand total of 5 minutes. Who doesn’t have five minutes to spare?
I think it’s easy to list 10 people who you should be thanking more often, but what about the cheerful grocer one sees each week? Generating a list of 40 people made me ruminate about how blessed my life is and how much goodwill I receive on a daily basis. Not only was writing thank you notes a cathartic process for me, but it spread kindheartedness to those who read my notes. People like to know their actions matter. I would challenge everyone of any generation to write 1 “thank you” note a day for 40 days at least once in their life. While my experience is not common, I would hope that sharing my experience demonstrates that some traditions transcend generations and that the practice of saying thank you is timeless. I will admit, I am guilty of occasionally paying more attention to my phone than other people in front of me, but I promise to never do so at the dinner table.