There is so much that I love about fall: cooler evenings, leaves turning, and fresh starts. Speaking of new starts, since I work in education, the reality of how much it takes to start a new academic year is sobering. For me, starting something is half the battle. I often have to encourage myself to engage in something new that I have not experienced before. Recently, my wife and I visited Cape Canaveral in Florida. It was interesting to learn that the Space Shuttle carries more than 500,000 pounds of fuel and it burns up the majority of it within the first few seconds of getting off the ground. Perhaps, like me, you can relate to the massive effort it takes to launch into the unknown.
Lately, I have been thinking about the many people who participated in getting this school year started at NU. Perhaps you can think of who some of those people are for you. Maybe it is an enrollment counselor, a teacher, or a friend. If you haven’t thought about this before, I encourage you to consider who has invested time, energy, and perhaps even finances, in getting you to where you are today. Ask yourself, “Who do I need to thank for getting me started?”
The apostle Paul said, “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16). Not only did Paul give thanks for people in his prayers to God, but his letter is a great reflection of how we should express that gratitude to those people who have invested in us.
If you are at a place where you can express verbal thanks to people, don’t hold out. Tell them how grateful you are for what they have done. A verbal thank you will cost nothing, but the investment will reap a dividend that you may never fully know. Writing a note to someone can add another level of appreciation because the recipient can read it over and over again. Acknowledging a person in public is one of the biggest morale boosters a person or group of people can receive. I love to give public recognition to people, especially when it is a person who would not otherwise expect it or moreover, want it. The more humble the person, the more fun it is to acknowledge them publicly.
At NU, we have a great system called the Northwest Way to recognize staff and faculty who have done something extraordinary. Peers can submit the name of a person they are grateful for and a brief description of why, and that person is honored during our next Staff and Faculty chapel. If a person has invested in you, spent energy on you, or gone beyond what is expected, take a moment to say thank you and let them know how grateful you are.
Lord, thank you for those who invest their time, energy, talent, and finances into the lives of others. Many people behind the scenes are making institutions, organizations, churches, and people better for the purpose and glory of your kingdom. Help us express our gratitude the way Paul expressed himself to the Church of Ephesus. Amen.