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John and Ji“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” – GB Stern

Have you ever had someone make a big difference in your life?

Do they know?

Frequently we so quickly and quietly move on with our lives that we miss the opportunity to share our gratitude for all someone else did for us. Let me explain.

Shortly after college I bought my first home.

A couple of my buddies lived with me and paid me rent. We had a back yard, wooden deck, hot tub, barbecue pit…basically everything a twenty-something guy could want!

My brother Jim called shortly after I closed on it. He wondered if he could live with us for a few weeks while transitioning from a house he was renting into one he planned on purchasing. He was a successful attorney and my only brother; I was happy to have him move in for a while.

On July 3, 1999 with temperatures in triple digits and humidity so high it made breathing a chore, I helped Jim move.

Now, I’ve worked mowing lawns as a kid, bailing hay as a farmhand in high school, and remodeling distressed properties after college. I’ve endured various other labor-intensive jobs, but I’ve never worked as hard or for as little as the day I moved him in.

We carried his workout equipment, a giant wooden bar, a pool table, furniture and bags and bags of junk. After a brutal day in the heat, we finally finished.

Jim took a quick walk through his old house to make sure we grabbed all of his stuff. That’s when he saw his Christmas decorations hiding in the corner of the basement: Wooden reindeer, light strands, a box of ornaments and a giant Santa Clause. He called me over, handed me a few boxes of lights and one of the reindeer, looked at me and said, “Man, this stuff is going to look amazing at our Christmas parties.”

Christmas parties? It’s freaking July, Jim. You’ll be in your real home before September. Right?

Well, a “few weeks” turned into three years.

Three years of fighting over the television remote control and leftovers. Laughter and great memories. Watching sports and wrestling matches. Going out and staying in. Hosting family gatherings and, yes, Christmas parties.

In other words, three years of living like brothers again.

And not once during the three years we lived together did we ever talk about the fire that defined my childhood, and changed our lives. Not once during the three years we lived together did we acknowledge to each other, or the three other roommates, that Jim was much more than a brother. He was my lifesaver, he was my hero, and that I wouldn’t be alive without him.

You see, there are so many individuals responsible for me successfully surviving a childhood fire that should have killed me – the paramedics, doctors, nurses, technicians, community. There are countless individuals who helped inspire me to thrive afterwards – my parents, therapists, Jack Buck, classmates.

Yet none of them would have had an opportunity to do their job, give their time, offer their prayers or encourage me forward had it not been for Jim’s heroism the day I was burned. As I stood in the front hall burning as a child, he’s the one who picked up a rug, he beat down the flames, he risked his life, he burned himself and he saved my life.

And I never even fully acknowledged it.

Well, I have now and it’s brought us closer together as brothers and as friends.

This holiday season is certain to reunite you with old friends and distant family members; office parties and intimate family gathering.

You’ll have encounters with people who have made a difference in your life, some profoundly, others in passing. But rather than talking sports, or weather, or what the market did today, choose to participate in conversations that breathe life and possibility into the moment; conversations that truly matter.

Choose to thank them for who they are and what they mean to you.

Choose to realize that silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone, but shared gratitude sets others on fire for life. [Tweet this.]

This is your day. Live inspired.

Who have you been silently grateful for, for too long? Share your gratitude in the comments below. I can’t wait to celebrate all of the special people in our lives together.

4 replies on “Silent Gratitude Isn’t Much Use to Anyone”

It is always an inspiration to read your messages. It definitely is a time to get in touch with dear friends and let them know how special they are to us. It just shouldn’t take a special time of year to do that. Hopefully your story reminds us that anytime is a great time to recognize those we love.

John, I was the recipient of gratitude on Saturday night. I was heading home from the MN Wild victory over the CO Avalanche when I stopped in to a convenience store for some munchies. I was standing in line when the couple in from of me needed to get checked out right away so they skipped in front of the woman when had brought 2 12pks of soda and some other things up to the counter but needed to retrieve one more item from another display. As circumstances would have it, the couple who skipped in from of her were buying lottery tickets, redeeming lottery tickets and taking all kinds of time. After they finished, I asked the woman with the soda if the items on the counter were hers. She said they were, so I said, ” I’m not in any hurry, please go ahead of me.” She had this huge smile on her face and said, Thank you for being so considerate, I’m going to buy your snack and grabbed my muchie out of my had before I could even say anything, had the clerk scan it and handed it back to me before I could even say anything. I thanked her and left the store with a big smile on my face. Little things make Big differences.
Merry Christmas,
Dan Butler

Steven – thanks for the kind words, brother. Just read your Christmas letter – your clients are lucky to have you AND your punny! Thanks for sharing and for all you do. Have a very, Merry Christmas! J

Thank you John for your time spent with the PDCA group back in St. Louis in the spring of 2014. You have become and are one of my secret roll models. Your constant truthful message of living inspired because we were designed with a purpose beyond our understanding is in front of us every second of our lives if we choose to recognize it. Thanks again for your persistence in helping others. I’ve attached a Christmas letter that is going out to my clients with my gratitude. You have been a big part of this success. Merry Christmas to you and your family. (couldn’t post letter, sent to email)

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.