Who is Xu and why is he thanking people?

9 years ago

Xu Niankui is a 76 year old retired teacher in Shanghai who just taught me a lesson. He carries thank you letters that he gives to people who offer their bus seats to him. The Shanghaiist reports that in 2007 a young girl gave him her seat. He spoke with her and found out where she went to school, and sent the school a note about how thoughtful she had been. The school recognized her for her act of kindness.

This was a revelation for Xu, who decided that if people realized how much a simple motion like giving up their seat meant to other people, they would do similar good deeds more.
Xu began bringing pre-written letters with him onto the bus, to hand out to those kind enough to be aware of others. Whenever someone offered their seat to him, he would give them his letter of thanks.

What a fabulous idea!

It is one thing to be thankful, to express gratitude, but quite another to be ready to actually hand someone a thank you note. I am imagining what my thank you note might say. I'd put it in a little card, maybe with a gift certificate for a cup of coffee or tea or whatever at Starbucks, or McDonald's or wherever.

Hello, stranger!
You have just done something kind. I want to thank you. Life is short and it can be full of big problems. But so many of those big problems seem smaller when someone reaches out with a kind word or action on even the smallest of occasions. So thank you for being compassionate and friendly today.
Best wishes!

It will be an interesting experiment. I could surely keep a couple of cards in my purse, zipped in their own area.

Another thing that I have started doing lately, after a friend encouraged me - is that when I receive excellent service, I ask to speak to that person's supervisor and I tell them how well their employee handled the situation. I have done this mostly with telephone customer service. Customer service is notoriously bad these days overall, but how much better could it be if we thanked good people for good service and furthermore let their bosses know?

Now, as a woman who waitressed her way through college and grad school, no amount of notes takes the place of a good tip. But a few words to the restaurant manager about exceptional service is a lovely add-on.

Kindness grows when it is fed. Gratitude is its best nourishment. Xu Niankui hopes that his letters inspire people to even more kindness. I will bet that he is right. He doesn't hand them out frequently -- only about 25 times in two years, but each time they have had meaning.

There is a fine quote by G.B. Stern. "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

In the past I have written about writing a gratitude list -- still a darned swell idea. But this is different. This is a proposition that we start living at the ready to actually express thanks in bigger ways. I suggest we turn into a Thank-You-Waiting-To-Happen.

How might that change how people treat us? What if we entered situations hoping that something lovely happens? I'll wager that changes the energy around us, and gives out spirits something different in a situation. It will communicate a compassionate heart. Energy like that radiates, changes things, makes little corners of the world gentler, better, finer.

So what do you think? Will you try the thank-you note idea with me?


Noelle points out what to say after someone says "thank you".

Nathalie points out:

One of the things I learned early on in life is that an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. Sometimes it helps to say thank you to nothing in particular, and other times it helps to highlight the people that make your life better.

Jennifer says:

When did saying thank you become an art form? Saying thank you seems like such an easy thing to do, yet so many people find it hard to do. Relationships amongst people can be greatly improved by just saying thank you. The worse thing is that we tend to do is not say thank you to the people who are the most important hold the most value in our lives.

Momgen gives a wonderful list of the ins and outs of sending thanks in writing.

How to Say Thank You in Hundreds of Languages

Mata H is CE for Religion and Spirituality and can be found blogging at Time's Fool

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