The Power of Thank-You

Thank-you’s come in all shapes and sizes.

A “thanks” from an acquaintance to whom you wish a great day; a “thanks for stopping by” from the store owner whose shop you just browsed in…and didn’t buy a thing; a quick text from a friend in gratitude for the latte you bought her a couple hours ago.

Or… A raspy “thanks, Mama” from your little one when you bring her a glass of water in the middle of the night; “Thanks! That was delicious,” when you’ve tried out yet another ever-so-below-average recipe on your husband; “Thanks, Jo,” when your mom appreciates your accompanying her to the doctor. And isn’t receiving an old-fashioned handwritten note in an old-fashioned mailbox just the best?

And then there are the magnanimous ones — A heartfelt thanks to the just-arrived-back-from-Afghanistan Marine; a massive “thank you very much” to all the physicians at City of Hope who gave their all to an ill oh-so-loved one. And thanks be to God for His many blessings: for the food I’m about to eat, for the alls-clear mammogram results I got last week, for my family that endures me, and for the ability to sit here and write this right now.

A THANK-YOU, size XS or XXL, a la carte or all-inclusive, given or received, is just plain good stuff.

And then there are the thank-you’s that totally come out of the blue.

But before I go forward, I must take you back…

Circa 1984, my sister, Claudia, was a practicing RN of about 10 years. As a way of giving back to her hometown (Porterville!), to her high school (Porterville High School!), and to her chosen profession of nursing, she annually gave money to a scholarship fund in her name, The Claudia Barringer Scott Nursing Scholarship. (Catchy name, huh?)

Her criteria for the lucky recipient were few, simple, and specific: need-based (not academic necessarily); when said beneficiary does become a nurse, always remember “The patient comes first!” And, she told them, “I would love it if you’d keep in touch.”

Again, this was one, two, three, four, five — 28 years ago!

So my sister is sitting in her home in Memphis, Tennessee a few Sundays ago when the phone rings. A woman’s voice asks to speak to Claudia Barringer Scott.

“This is Claudia.”

“Hi Claudia. My name is Sheri Jones. I’ve never met you, and I bet you don’t remember my name, but you awarded me your nursing scholarship back in 1984. I’ve been trying to track you down for months. Because I want to say thank you. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

And where she is today is in the Pacific Northwest, happily married with children, working as a Family Nurse Practitioner (just this side of an M.D.), in her own thriving private practice.

She went on to explain to Sis her very poor, unstable, often cruel upbringing — a childhood where she had to pee in a tin cup behind the tree because her family of six lived in a toilet-less trailer, in which buying one pair of shoes a year at the Salvation Army was cause for celebration, where she traveled up and down the San Joaquin Valley picking fruit 12 months a year, where a college education wasn’t valued or considered.

My sister was shocked, honored, touched, and so grateful that Sheri had sought her out after almost three decades. Because she didn’t really need to do that. But she wanted to. Because my sister’s gesture that many years ago had made a huge difference. For if it weren’t for my sister’s generosity, Sheri would never have broken the cycle of poverty, drug abuse and non-education that was so pervasive in her family and ancestors before her.

She was a third-generation fruit picker. “I was trampy white trailer trash,” she said. (Her words, not mine.)

But not anymore.

Claudia gave me Sheri’s phone number. I called her. And we talked for about two hours on the phone. What a life. Parts of it I find almost unbelievable. Sheri Jones is not her real name, of course, but her life story is. Very real. Very compelling. Very inspirational. And I can’t wait to tell you more about her in future posts.

So thanks, Sis, for giving. And Sheri, thank you for that outta-the-blue phone call. The kindness and gracious deeds of both of you serve as reminders to us all of the power and the joy of thanks and giving, every day, not just on Thanksgiving Day.

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5 Responses to The Power of Thank-You
  1. Lois
    November 21, 2012 | 12:54 pm

    This one made me cry….Thank YOU Jodie for writing it. Thank you Claudia for being the kind heart that you are and sharing your good fortune with others. We all need to “UP OUR ATTITUDE” not just during the holidays but always remember to be thankful! I am…have a great family and a fantastic neighbor who’s like a Mom to me, her fabulous family who treat me as a sister. Who can ask for more??

  2. Diane Bertsch
    November 21, 2012 | 1:11 pm

    Thankful to know Claudia! Great story, Jode.

  3. marlene price
    November 21, 2012 | 1:24 pm

    Wonderful story, well-written…Thanks, Jodie, for honoring your sister and “Sheri”

  4. Michelle kozlowski
    November 22, 2012 | 10:28 am

    Beautiful Jodi! Thank you

  5. Therese Fowler-Bailey
    March 11, 2013 | 9:03 pm

    I read this so many moons ago.. and now I read it again. Merci, Dhanka, SpellCk, Gracias and Gracia.
    True heartfelt enjoyment with this special story~ Therese

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It's true! Despite playing defense virtually all my life against the onslaught of this sometimes-ugly aging process, it...has...arrived! I naively thought I would escape cellulite (the Cottage Cheese) and crow's feet (the Crepe Paper). But I didn't! And why didn't anyone tell me about this emotional roller-coaster that comes with being an Empty-Nester?! My name is Jodie Barringer Myers. I'm a 54-year-old Friday/chardonnay/ hydrangea-loving wife/mom/court reporter living in Sacramento (Gold River!), California. Writing is cathartic for me. And because I look to find humor and humility among the rubble that is my now very peri-menopausal self, I'm hopeful that you will laugh, cry, learn, enjoy and, most of all, relate to what I have to say. After all, we're all in this together, right?

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