1 Corinthians 16: 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.
I sat in the infield at Arcadia High School, arm around my son, not knowing what to say. We flew from Toronto to California for arguably the most prestigious high school decathlon in the world, but Nathaniel’s two-day event lasted less than 15 minutes. His nagging leg injury barely got him through the 100m, the first event. He was devastated; he couldn’t stay healthy. When we returned home a coach said he wanted to take Nathaniel under his wings. An unlikely choice, Dermott Smith had been a gifted football player, a college high jumper (he was convinced that Nathaniel was a high jumper too), he helped train world boxing champion Lennox Lewis, and self-admittedly knew little about the decathlon. But he understood the human body and wanted Nathaniel to start all over (literally). For weeks on end, my wife and I watched Dermott re-teach Nathaniel how to walk, before teaching him to run, or jump. He re-did his mechanics and strengthened his body, and his plan worked. Nathaniel grew stronger and began breaking high school track and field records. Dermott gave in and admitted that Nathaniel was a decathlete. About a year later he set the Canadian Junior Decathlon record and competed in the World Junior Track and Field Championships. Soon after he received a full ride D1 scholarship to one of the strongest U.S. track programs.
We have done our best over the years to thank Dermott (and his wife Pauline) for what he invested into our son, but we feel it can never be quite enough. With a young family of his own, he selflessly invested into our son. I reached out recently to Dermott to check in on him and he said that he had made the decision to step back a bit from coaching for a while. He told me, “The lack of commitment of the kids has almost killed my interest”. Finding parents and kids who truly understand and are grateful for what a coach is investing seems to be a rarity. I believe being committed and saying thank-you has to be the minimum bar.
I’m intrigued by studies investigating the power of “thank you”. A paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Grant & Gino, 2010), summarized four studies and documents an incredible effect on the recipient of a “thank you”. Not surprisingly, the recipient tended to want to do even more for the thankful person, but a “thank-you” also significantly increased the likelihood they would do good deeds for others. “All four studies reveal that gratitude is more than just a social nicety, or a way of making the helper feel good; it reassures others their help was actually appreciated, and it encourages further prosocial behavior.” A University of George Study of married people reinforced the power of “thank-you”. “The results indicated that spousal expression of gratitude was the most consistent significant predictor of marital quality”.
Not surprisingly, the Bible is full of examples of thankfulness. Hundreds of verses encourage us to give thanks to the Lord, but there are also many which encourage us to thank others. I was struck by how often the Apostle Paul thanked others. Read 1 Thessalonians 1, and 1 Thessalonians 5, and you will see him continually showing gratitude to the people in Thessalonica. When writing to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16: 15-18), he models out thankfulness and encourages them to be thankful for the people who have devoted themselves to them. God has wired us to positively benefit from being grateful people, but also receiving thanks. Who do you need to thank today? Who do you need to thank every day?