The “Thank You Stair Climb” Challenge

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.




Getting Rid of the Gunk in My Life

I recently dealt with a skin issue—some dry and peeling skin on my face—and was advised to keep it covered with Aquaphor.

For the clueless, Aquaphor is a healing ointment used to treat/prevent dry rough skin and minor irritations such as diaper rash or skin burns. I dutifully kept the Aquaphor on my face and it lived up to its reputation.

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Walter’s Story—and Being Challenged by a Simple Gesture

My church, St. David’s Episcopal, offers breakfast on Sunday mornings. They recently started a Breakfast Greeter ministry where a member stays in the breakfast area to welcome parishioners and keeps an eye out for new people. If you stood in the room, you would see many tables filled with people laughing and talking.

But if you are new to the breakfast….. it can be daunting to stand in a room full of people while holding a tray in your hand trying to figure out where you should sit… wondering if the persons at the table would welcome you or want to talk to you.

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Love, Defined, in 6 Words

I recently read a quote that has stayed lodged in my heart and will not leave. The quote, by L. R. Knost, is:

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

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Why I Entered a Dragon Boat Race

Have you ever been asked a question that stopped you in your tracks? That made you go “Hmmm?”

Last month’s story, The Year of “Hands On” Living, was about my decision to live this year “Hands-On” ….. where I would be willing to make a greater effort to be truly involved with life… not just sitting back and watching …..but to be willing to take chances and make a few messes….. and maybe, in the process, to share my heart with those around me.

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Reflections on a Duct Taped Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

The annual tradition of finding my perfect Charlie Brown (CB) Christmas tree began in 2011 when my granddaughter joined me on this quest.  I had moved into a condo after my divorce and had given away my large tree, so I decided to get a small (aka Charlie Brown) tree. She helped me choose the perfect table top tree.

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Being Thankful for Endings that Turn into Beginnings

On Sunday, November 19th, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my son and his family by hosting a Thanksgiving brunch at my home. To add to the joy, my grandchildren (ages 8 and 5) spent the night with me which included S’mores, hot chocolate, and stories before bedtime. It was an evening filled with love and laughter.

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The Challenge of Stillness

My priest, Kenneth Swanson at St. David’s Episcopal Church, offers a course called “Spiritual Direction” in which one learns the purpose of prayer and how to pray. The course is not for the faint of heart. Participants meet twice a month for two hours from September to May. There is one hour of small group conversation followed by a one-hour lecture by Ken.

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