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January is National "Thank You" Month--And we have a Special Giveaway!

"Thank You"...two small words that mean so much.  When was the last time you said, 'thank you' to someone?  How about when someone said, 'thank you' to you?  Remember how it felt?  If it was a sincere comment you paid to someone, what medium did you use: phone, e-mail, in-person, or maybe via a text message?  This month, we'd like to encourage you to do it the old-fashioned way...handwritten.  Why? Well, for one, it's National Thank You Month, and secondly, it's something that would probably make your mother very proud.

Last year we were inspired by John Kralik's book, "A Simple Act of Gratitude--How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life".   With a goal of writing 365 'thank yous' or, "one-a-day for a year", he lived through some incredible changes in his life, career and family, that prompted his  motivation.  While it took him a bit longer than an actual calendar year to reach his goal, the wheels of positive life changes were set in motion, changes that continue, now some four years after he first began this tangible exercise in expressing gratitude.

Shannon and I have always been big advocates of writing and sending hand-written notes, encouraging our own boys to do the same.  It's an exercise that began with encouragement from our own parents back when we were very young.  Now, if you're a guy who's reading this (hey, thanks!),  I know that it's not always perceived as being "cool" or a "guy thing" to send out, or otherwise express, sincere thanks to someone -- but let me offer a bit of encouragement.

In just the past week, I've had some fun experience with this that just reinforced the power of kindness; it all started with my acknowledging 'thanks' to some people for their helping me.  Having had some transmission work done on my car recently (OK, the transmission and entire cooling system system had to be replaced), I paid a personal visit to the super-honest, top-notch technician who worked on my car.  I wanted to shake his hand, and offer him my sincere thanks for the great work he did in putting it back together; it ran like a dream after he fixed it.  After passing along my praise for his work, the Technician (John) dropped his head for just a moment, blushed, then told me that not only had no one ever taken the time to tell him 'thank you' for his repair work, they never made a trip to the shop to say it in person; he said that totally made his day.  Since I was already at the dealership, I stopped by the parts counter to pick up some hard-to-find interior trim parts that had been shipped for me from Sweden; they were a perfect fit, so I thanked him for his diligent service in finding and ordering the exact parts for my car.  He looked surprised, then shook his head and said, "No one ever thanks us for ordering the right parts; we only hear from people who complain if the wrong ones come in."  He was so proud of his early morning 'thank you', he said he was going to go tell the manager right away that he and his department had just gotten a compliment.  Shannon has had similar success, whether thanking the guy who delivers the mail, or the UPS man (Ken) who delivers her many Up North card boxes.  They and others have gone out of their way to help her, all because she took the time to acknowledge their service by saying a sincere, "thank you".

But we continue to hear a sad theme repeated over and over from individuals we meet: "No one has ever thanked me for anything...".  That reminds me of a quote from Charles Schwab, a very successful investment banker, who built a great company around principles of honesty, integrity, and kindness, while acknowledging the contributions of others; he said, "I have yet to find the man who did not work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism."  If we experience something positive that someone has done for us, why not recognize it with a kind word of thanks; it'll make their day.  Or this quote from 19th century American author and philosopher William James, who affirmed that, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."  Even Zig Ziglar noted as much when he observed, "There are over 9-billion people on the earth who go to bed hungry every night -- for a compliment or a kind word."

But expressing genuine kindness to others and gratitude for what we have (or have been given) often begets as much from others...often when we least expect it.  I'm reminded of an innocent gesture I made a few years ago when I wrote a dignified note to Buckingham Palace to express particular thanks for a special speech made by the Queen of England.  Within weeks of my having sent that note, I was surprised to receive a beautifully written letter from the Queen of England's personal secretary, expressing the Queen's "personal and profound thanks" for the encouragement I had given her in my note; what a priceless bit of encouragement that was to me, and so totally unexpected.

I had another humbling experience from Dr. Richard DeVos, the founder of Amway, who sent me a hand-written thank you note along with an autographed copy of his then-latest book after I had written him a note of thanks regarding a speech he had given.  Dr. DeVos was addressing the Commonwealth Club of California where he expressed his admiration and gratitude for the profoundly positive impact made on his life by his mentor and friend, the late Rev. Dr. Leonard Greenway, from Grand Rapids, MI.  Small world; it turns out that Dr. Greenway happened to be a close, personal friend of mine, too; we had something in common (besides Grand Rapids being our home-town); I simply thanked Richard for sharing such kind words about our mutual friend to a national audience that was broadcast to several thousand people.  Dr. DeVos promptly acknowledged my comments with a surprise package: the unexpected gift of his latest book,  Ten Powerful Phrases of Positive People, along with a very encouraging hand-written letter that he wrote (telling me I should really take up writing), which he signed.  Was I ever humbled!

My and Shannon's stash of personal thank you notes that have been sent to us over the years hail back to our youth, continuing to grow with each passing year; we keep them all in a special place to look at now and then, since each one conveys something of the heart of the sender that keeps on giving the gift of friendship long after the events that once surrounded them have passed.  In so doing, we continue to be blessed.  And in so doing, we find a wonderful law at work: the more you give, the more you receive; isn't that wonderful!

What a magnificent "marriage" of sorts this has become: developing this blog to share our love of 'Up North" with you, while incorporating pictures of "Up North Captured Moments" that Shannon has captured with her skillful eye through the crisp lens of her camera that will end up on the face of the "Be There" and "Reflection" line of cards she has carefully crafted; we like to enjoy using them as an excuse to acknowledge the kindness of others, from the simple to the profound, or for almost any occasion that comes to mind.  Whether it's for a Thank You, Birthday, or Just Because, these have all been designed to offer the giver -- and the receiver -- something special from a place we like to think of as the gentle heart of Northern Michigan.  As a family, we feel very strongly about the importance of the written word and hope that you will take the time this month to send someone you know a sincere 'Thank You' for an act of kindness that has made a positive impact in your own life.

To help you to that end, we are excited to announce an extra special giveaway.  In honor of National Thank You Month, we would like to give a mixed box of your choice of "Be There" Cards - 10 Cards


 (this is really exciting to us!)...

a SIGNED copy of John Kralik's book, "A Simple Act of Gratitude". 

We recently created five new cards, one of which is a  "Thank You" card, pictured above.  When we discovered that January is 'National Thank-You month', we thought it would be fun to have a "blog/facebook" giveaway for a box of our special cards.  Since John's best-selling book has been so instrumental in inspiring the Up North Captured Moments card line, we thought it might be exciting to add John's book in our drawing.  But before heading out to buy a book for the drawing, we thought it'd be even more special to offer a signed copy to give away.  So, Shannon wrote John to see if we could somehow purchase a book from him that he could return to us "signed".  It was a request he quickly responded to with his own degree of enthusiasm, along with the gracious donation of his signed book! 

As such, we are very excited to announce that now through the end of the month, if you leave a special comment on our blog of something or someone you are thankful for, and/or "like" us on our Facebook Page and leave a comment, we'll enter you into a drawing for this exciting combo package!  You can start now to create your own package of cards by going to the "Be There" Tab and select the 10 cards you would like to receive in your gift box.
As an added everyone who makes a card purchase this month --a "Be There" or "Reflections" series card, we'll give you a stamp to go with each card...whether you purchase one, two, three or 10. (OK, 10 Stamps, max--but you're welcome to purchase more cards. :-)

While your I-phone may have an "app" for 'Thank-Yous', we like to say we now have a "card" for that!  Thank you, and happy writing!