This past weekend I was standing in the outer hallway of my church’s community building. It is a lovely hallway—one side bordered by ceiling to floor windows. I was admiring the courtyard below.
As I stood there, I could hear someone coming up the stairwell behind me. At first, I did not pay too much attention but the closer she got to the top, I could hear her saying slowly and deliberately “Thank you…. Thank you…. Thank you…..”. The rhythm and cadence of her words were such that I felt she was saying “thank you” each time she placed her foot on a step.
But it was the tone of the words that caught my interest. The words were spoken in a deliberate manner….. slowly….. and were truly filled with quiet gratitude. Finally, the “Thank You” stair climber appeared. We chatted for a few minutes and then went to our Sunday School class.
But as the day and then week progressed… I could not get her “thank yous” out of my thoughts. You see, there was a quiet intensity to them that has not let go of my heart.
And the question, of course, what were they about?
I know she is married to a good man….. were her “thank yous” about that?
I know she recently was diagnosed with cancer….but she has a good prognosis. Was she thanking God for any of this?
Or, was she merely being grateful for a beautiful day?
I do not know.
But I know this….. I could not shake the deliberateness and tone of her voice… with each step…. she was holding something/someone in her heart or mind…. and she was offering thanks…. slowly, thoughtfully, and with intention.
So, this week… I started thinking….. what if I created a personal “thank you” routine….. when I walked up the stairs…. at my house, at work, at church…. I too would say thank you each time I put my foot on the next step. I would visualize something/someone—and express my gratitude out loud.
I have friends who participate in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs where they are paying tribute to a FDNY firefighter by climbing or walking the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. That kind of Stair Climb seems impossible to me.
So, I thought—OK—let’s do something different. I am going to create my own personal Stair Climb aka the “Thank You Stair Climb”—how hard could that be? After all, she made it look easy. And I also decided I would not try to do this every time I went up the stairs—but I could (probably) commit to 2 or 3 times a day.
Well, I immediately ran into an issue—on my first attempt.
Apparently, I like to go up the stairs quickly—at the speed of light. I had to slow myself down—a lot—to get the words “Thank you” out of my lips before I took the next step.
It has been harder than I thought it would be….. this deliberately slowing myself down to express gratitude. Even trying to do it just 2 or 3 times a day—it seems to take FOREVER to go up my stairs at home. Slowing myself down has been painful if not impossible.
I will not lie—I am struggling with this challenge. Sometimes I am ½ way up the stairs and I have to fight the urge to yell quickly “Thank you Thank you Thank you” and run up the rest of the steps.
I am having to learn to not travel through life at the speed of light but instead to travel at the speed of slowness and to make time to be thankful.
And I have much to be thankful for.
They say practice makes perfect—and it takes a while to train for a marathon or any kind of physical challenge—so I am in training now—each day—as I practice the “Thank You Stair Climb” Challenge. My current goal is to do this once a day—being truly deliberate about expressing my gratitude as I take each step—a simple goal but still challenging.
And, as I practice, I cannot shake from my mind the memories of the intensity—the strength—her words of gratitude conveyed as she said them out loud ….. step by step.
I want that kind of strength.
What about you, dear reader? It is this a challenge worthy of your time?
It is both simple and complex—
And you begin training for it – one step at a time.