I don’t know about you, but I’m BIG into thank you notes. I was raised in the South, where they are just something you do. You thank people properly with a note. When I received this particular, unexpected thank you note (keep reading, it’s below) in my inbox recently, I wept.

I received it on one of those days where nothing was going right and nothing I did seemed productive, and I sort of had the feeling that it may NEVER turn around.

You ever have those days? Well, I do. And this day was a doozy of one. Then, I opened this email.

Time stopped the second I read, “When I was eighteen years old, I stepped off of a curb, and I got hit by a bus. I almost died, but thankfully, I lived…”

When I finished, I sat there for a second in the time freeze, and then, the emotion and tears rose and began their downpour. Fast and hard and in the most cathartic way. And you know what? That’s right…I had an epiphany. I was so moved by this beautiful epiphany by Margaret Westley and marveled that she actually got hit by a bus! (I always use the euphemism, “What the hell? I’ll do it. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.”)

Well, not only has Margaret actually gotten hit by a bus and lived to tell about it, but she had an epiphany because of it and is thriving. And on top of that, she took the time to write about it and then thanked me. She thanked all of us—anyone who ever inspired her and who ever inspired others (which includes YOU! Yes, you’ve been an inspiration to someone, somewhere, and if you think about it, you’ll know and remember it, too).

Margaret’s example of gratitude is breathtaking to me. Right after I read her note, I broke into tears because she gave me the gift of hope and recognition and gratitude on a day that I felt insignificant, at a loss, and stuck. She told me my work mattered. To her it did.

“To know even one soul has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

That quote rang out to me. Margaret made this one life breathe easier. She was writing to thank others and me for our work that inspires her, and, in doing so, she became the source of inspiration and strength. It all ripples out and circles back.

The epiphany, for me, is that it really does work that way, and with this project, I get to witness it constantly—this time, it was an epiphany of gratitude that rippled out and sparked another epiphany of gratitude in me. And it also is an example of realizing you never know whose life you are touching with your work, actions, thoughts, and deeds. It brings home how important it is to be diligent and aware of what we are doing and how amazing it can be to simply take a second, put forth a little effort, and send a little gratitude to a person who has helped you in any way—maybe given you a gift or word of encouragement, treated you to dinner, made an introduction, shared some information, or just touched your life in a completely random way.

A little gratitude goes a long way.

So thank you, Margaret. Thank you for the gift you gave me, for sharing your epiphany with us, and for your living example of gratitude.

How can we all show our gratitude today? And to whom can you write a thank you note?

Handwritten ones are always wonderful and rare these days, making them even more special, but emails are great too. And check out Paperless Post. They have some beautiful, fun ways to send thank you notes.

Here is Margaret’s epiphany and note. Margaret came across my work through the magnanimous Jennifer Pastiloff, who gives out some of my handouts in her workshops if I can’t be there to speak. You can read Margaret’s whole story on Positively Positive HERE.

“Dear Epiphany Channel and Elise,

“When I was eighteen years old, I stepped off of a curb, and I got hit by a bus. I almost died, but thankfully, I lived. As a result, I broke my right ankle and badly damaged my left limb, which eventually had to be amputated six inches below the knee. I am thankful every day for this accident because it was not until I got hit that I learned how to live.

“Today, we are hearing news stories of things like bombings in Boston and constant suicide bombings in the Middle East, and had all this happened before my accident, I would not have been tapped into the fact of shared global pain.

“Life is short. That’s one epiphany of many, and tomorrow—heck the next five seconds!—is not guaranteed, and because of so many people and an inner strength, I am here today, and I can stand. I can stand not only in a physical sense, but I can stand with my beliefs and a newfound voice. I can stand with compassion, possibility, and love, because I truly believe that is what will work in helping to heal others and us. I feel, though, more importantly than the epiphany of life being short, that there is the importance (to me personally) in expressing my gratitude to people of this world—whether I’ve met them or not—because I feel we all have a need to know we matter.

“So, with that said, thank YOU so much for your work and for dropping into a creative space to question, to believe, to feel, to seek. It’s people like you who inspire me to get out of bed in the morning, put on my leg, and go out into the world, to get off whatever high horse I may be on, skip the unnecessary ego, and be a better person for the sake of this world and a brighter future.

“I know there have been so many who have come before me and so many people now who are doing much needed work, and, that said, I realize that within my short span of life thus far, I am learning (sometimes slowly) to live it and to say thank you.

“With peace, Margaret Westley”

Elise Ballard is the author of the book, Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage, and Transform, a heartfelt journey full of amazing stories of fascinating people, from world-renowned figures, thought leaders, and performers—such as Maya Angelou, Dr. Oz, Desmond Tutu, Deepak Chopra and Barry Manilow—to former inmates, leading psychologists, teachers, homemakers, and many more. To learn more about Elise and Epiphany Channel, visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Elise will be speaking at Jennifer Pastiloff’s retreat this Labor Day weekend in Ojai, CA and conducting a workshop in Norwalk, CT at Saraswati’s Yoga Joint on September 21.

*Image courtesy of Simple Reminders.