Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.
This following article is a guest post from Julie Smith Turner.
I had a few goals when I started my own writing business last year. I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny. I wanted freedom. I wanted to fix a decent supper for my family every night.
What have I learned? Owning a business is hard. There’s no flexibility without late-night work sessions. Let’s not even get into weeknight family meals. I was so busy, I even found it difficult to write for my blog.
Then one day last fall, I paid a visit to Jason, the service manager for our car repair shop. We’d seen Jason a lot in 2011. The last time it had been expensive. Really expensive. So when the check engine light appeared one morning, I all but came unglued and headed to the car shop.
Jason was so kind and helpful that day, I remember driving away thinking how different the conversation could have been had he not been there. Jason was such an asset to his employer, I thought they needed to know. I should write a letter, I thought. Then I thought about the millions of Jasons out there — people who do great work, unnoticed and certainly underappreciated. There are so many, I could write a thank you letter once a week for a year and barely make a dent, I thought.
And that’s how my Thank You Project began.
It wasn’t fancy. I’d write a thank you letter, mail it and post it on my blog. And that’s just what I’ve been doing for the past eight months.
As weeks passed, interest grew. People said they read the letters and looked forward to them. Friends, followers and associates thanked me for reminding them to be thankful. More than a few people told me my project inspired them to write a thank you letter. Then I started to hear from letter recipients.
I got thank you notes back from a small garage, a community group and local philanthropist. I saw incredibly humble Facebook statuses acknowledging the letters and enjoyed the showers of shares and likes as others echoed my appreciation and magnified it.
Aris Demetrios, the son of children’s book author Virginia Lee Burton, called me from California to thank me for my letter and share memories of his mother, writer and illustrator of my favorite childhood stories, Mike Milligan and the Steam Shovel and The Little House.
One night a Publix deli employee put two and two together and asked me if I’d written the letter they received. I was thrilled to learn their letter had been read aloud at a store staff meeting and is framed and hanging in the back of the deli.
The letters have been sent, received, read and shared by many. Others have done thank you projects of their own. One writer in Australia loved it so much she and her friends did a project on the Twitter hashtag I’d been using (#thankyouproject).
Looking back, I never expected the letters to have much impact. It didn’t matter if anyone else read them. The goal was to shine a spotlight on someone who gives with little expectation of receiving anything in return. That the Thank You Project would resonate with so many has been a complete surprise.
My fresh blog content ended up changing my perspective — and that of many others — in so many different ways.
For that I am truly grateful.
Julie Smith Turner is writer-in-chief at Wordsmith, a content strategy and copywriting services company in Columbia, SC. She has more than 20 years of marketing and advertising experience, a pink concrete Sasquatch in her front yard and couldn’t possibly choose between bacon and cheese. You can read the thank you letters on her blog.