With or without our intent or knowledge, we each of us create concentric circles of influence that may affect others for years – even generations. The effect we have on others is passed on to others, and then passed on to others and then others again. This idea – which I have taken from works of American psychologist Irvin Yalom – makes my heart swell.

I recently wrote about death. To leave behind some trait, wisdom, virtue or comfort to others – here is our chance for immortality!

Showing someone else the effect they have had on you and your life is a most powerful way of showing gratitude. It is not merely a thank you. It translates into: ”I have taken some part of you into me. It has changed and enriched me and I shall pass it on to others.”

heart ripple

Here is how to do it:

Think of someone towards whom you feel great gratitude, which you have never expressed. It might be your kindergarten teacher; that sports coach, who really believed in you; the friend, who was there when you needed it the most; your parent or aunt of sibling – or an artist or author – someone, who has touched your life.

Write that person a letter, describing how they have touched your life. It does’t have to be a very fancy or eloquent or complicated: Just let them understand how they made a difference in you life. Get out an envelope and a stamp and send it! (Or do it in an email!) If the person is someone you know, you can even read the letter out loud to them.

Don’t wait until it is too late. Say it while there is time.

I PROMISE you, it will make you feel the best you have felt in a long time.

And I PROMISE you, it will make the receiver feel the best, they have felt in a long time.

Last week, I mustered the courage to send a letter of gratitude to one of my life’s great, great heroes: Irvin Yalom (yes, the same). He is an acclaimed author and highly respected psychologist professor, and – although I felt scared and inferior and star-struck – I sent him a page’s worth of words describing how he has touched my life, influenced my thinking, eased my existentialistic pain and offered me a language about these things.

The very same day he replied. He thanked me for a “lovely” letter and said that he felt glad that his work has been meaningful to me.

There are no words to explain how that exchange makes me feel.

Just this: I highly recommend it.

Related posts:

An Idea That Can Change Your Life. No, Really!

Dear Cinda: Should I have a Child?

Coming Out as a Highly Sensitive Person

Thoughts on Gratitude


2 Responses to The Rippling Effect

  1. wellingtons says:

    Tried it a while back and you’re completely right – it felt really good. The reply I got to my words of gratitude showed to me that the receiver appreciated my effort.

  2. Wabbit says:

    You know what? This also works for apologies. Things that happened years ago but still live in your soul can be so detrimental. Nothing like a sincere apology to free you. I did it several years ago, apologizing to a friend I had known in 7th grade, after so many years when we were both married and had children. It moved her in unexpected ways – she had completely left that chapter behind, but it brought her to tears – and it freed me from a guilt that had resided in a corner of my soul. It’s very freeing.

    So tell them you love them. Tell them they meant so much. Tell them you’re sorry about way back when. But tell them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.