Universities are, by definition, places of learning and growth. And while I’d say a vast majority of my learning happens in the classroom and through my personal engagement with class material, there are still some things school can’t teach you.
I lean on some outside sources for personal betterment, such as online tutorials, interpersonal relationships and séances with spirits. And for everything else, there’s MasterCard.
Just kidding, I actually rely on eavesdropping.
I honestly don’t intend to eavesdrop; sometimes I’ll even actively avoid it with earbuds and a 20-foot-wide personal bubble. However, Americans are notoriously noisy people, and my first-floor apartment gets a lot of foot traffic outside, so sometimes I’m made privy to pieces of knowledge I’m perhaps not meant to be in on.
From these accidental eavesdropping sessions, I’ve learned about gossip and parties on campus, found out it’s extremely common for people to sing while walking alone and heard bits of discussion on topics ranging from grades to relationships to why the phrase “tight budget” doesn’t sound quite right.
Occasionally, though, the things I inadvertently snoop on can be extremely thought-provoking. Recently, I overheard someone worry aloud that sending a thank-you note to their former host family would be an annoyance or a burden of some sort since they probably receive tons of that sort of thing.
The person’s companion (out loud) and I (silently) were in complete agreement: Showing gratitude is rarely a waste or unwanted, and that host family would probably be thrilled to hear something kind and unprovoked from that individual. Plus, the person would benefit in return from having conveyed the thanks.
According to a TED Talk by David Steindl-Rast, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” It may seem like happy people have the most to be grateful for and the people being thanked would benefit most from demonstrations of gratitude, but the ones doing the thanking may actually emotionally benefit more than anyone.
Research on gratitude also demonstrates that, for emotionally mature people, showing thankfulness is not only connected to greater happiness but also increased optimism, healthier social relationships and better physical health than those who are less forthcoming with their thanks.
In my opinion, being cognizant of the ones who helped you get to where you are can be an exercise in humility as well as in gratitude. While U.S. culture often puts emphasis on individuals in driving their own fate — pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and all that — it’s important to recognize that everything you’ve built has been made possible by the people who have supported you in the past.
So, knowing the wonderful benefits of showing gratitude, and knowing that I would be neither successful nor graduating without some of the wonderful people in my life, I would like to do a quick bout of thank-you’s before the proverbial award ceremony music comes to play me out.
I have to thank my parents for financing me, feeding me, driving me to school when I missed the bus and a small handful of other things. I appreciate it.
I’d like to thank my lovely professors for not only putting together amazing lesson plans and teaching me so much, but also for their noble but ineffective efforts to get me to speak in class. Sorry about that.
To my wonderful friends: I have nothing snarky to say here, I just really appreciate that you put up with my nonsense.
I have to thank anyone who read these articles and allowed me to give them secondhand embarrassment as I shared details of my life they probably didn’t want to know. Remember when I told everyone that I accidentally slept on some chocolate and it melted in my hair and I went to class like that anyway? Good times. Thanks for putting up with being forced to read that with your own two eyes.
I also have to thank the editors at the Daily for parsing through and publishing my improperly edited, regurgitated words.
And, perhaps most importantly, thank you to the people who (incidentally) allow me to eavesdrop and inhabit their world, even for just a moment; I’ve absorbed more of your secrets and wisdom than you’ll ever know.
Sarah Leeson can be reached at email@example.com.