It’s an amazing thing. The coronavirus crisis has given the world every opportunity to be fearful. More and more people are isolated in lockdown. But then the selfless service of others provokes a spontaneous reaction.

Across the nations applause has been heard in thankful appreciation of the heroes putting their lives on the line for everyone. Sometimes it’s organised like the (now) weekly celebration of Great Britain’s National Health Service – but more often expressed by spontaneous acclamation through the streets of even the hardest-hit countries like Italy and Spain. Politicians, royalty and celebrities add their applause to the groundswell of “thank you”s. There are stories of those making fast food deliveries being unexpectedly caught up in these moments of celebration – and being cheered on as well.

There is something profoundly powerful in simply saying “thank you.” It can change a single life or the atmosphere of a whole community. Recent studies have shown that not only does “patient-expressed gratitude” enhance the performance of medical teams, but the very presence of these words can change behavior for good. A quick survey of my own social media feeds reflects the facts of the crisis but an increasingly positive and grateful flavour to content.

And it’s truly worldwide. A Canadian healthcare worker was moved to tears by the local show of support. “It’s amazing. Just to see the people on the corners, it just, it warms your heart,” said just one such hero in Ontario. “It makes you proud to be a healthcare worker and to come to work and to do everything that you can, not only for your family, but also the community.”

Imagine the power of these two words to encourage exhausted carers. Imagine the impact that saying “thank you” could have on a City facing a seemingly uncertain future. Churches are championing their local NHS staff posting messages such as this “We salute you! We honour you and are praying for you.” Traditions of civic celebration can look forward to the days after the lockdown is lifted to honour the lost and cheer the heroes. In a radio interview this week, the world-famous Chelsea Pensioners expressed dismay at the curtailed spring but looked forward to a party to come.

When we have good reason to be fearful, it’s natural to look at the fear. But the ancient wisdom of the Bible gives some very practical advice. “Do not worry. Learn to pray about everything. Give thanks to God as you ask Him for what you need.” (Philippians 4:6 NLV) What if we give thanks with every request? Terry Waite, a hostage for 1763 days in terrible conditions advises us to change our mindset and be grateful for what we have. Thankfulness is more than a good idea, it has the power to change today. My wife and I moved to France during 2018 and as we adjust to the language and culture we’ve made a habit of thanking everyone for everything – especially when we ask for something. The “thank you” adds relationship to the request.

So, what can we do? Victor Hugo said “thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go.” In an uncertain world, why don’t we release some “thank you”s and see what happens? It might just change our communities for good.

By Gary Atkins, Head of Operations at Cinnamon Network International

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