It’s Time to Have More GratiTalks

A lil’ story about the tremendous power of gratitude.


Jordan Gross

3 years ago | 30 min read

There’s a faint applause in the background, and the only other sound is the intentional, anxious steps of a young man walking up to a podium as the worn-out soles of his charcoal leather shoes mark the stage.

He shuffles unstapled yellow loose-leaf papers around in his hands before shakily setting them on the upward tilt of the podium before him. The boy’s appearance is unkempt; long shaggy hair partially blocking his face, tie loosely hanging around his neck, sweat droplets surrounding his upper lip.

The large and engaged crowd of people attending this ceremony have every eye on the boy at the front of the stage. He finishes thanking them for being there and continues. His voice is shaky, and his delivery is unpolished.

“Hi. My name is Kevin. But that’s all I would like to say about me at the moment, because today is not about me. Today is about somebody else.” He pauses and looks up at the enormous chandelier in the middle of the hall.

“My mom has always put everyone else first. At her job, her employees come first. In her social life, her friends come first. In our family, we all come first. She has always been the kind of woman who you call when something goes wrong. No matter what she is doing, she’ll always be there to give advice or lend a helping hand, no questions asked.

“But today, today I want to put my mom first. She deserves to be put first every once in a while. Today, I want to tell you all how amazing she really is.

“I want to tell you about the time I couldn’t fall asleep growing up, so she stayed awake night after night, rocking me in every different blanket we owned until my eyes finally shut.

“I want to tell you about the time when I was embarrassed to start wearing glasses, so she wore glasses to work for a week straight, even though she had perfect 20/20 vision.

“I want to tell you about the time when I wet my pants on a school field trip, and she dabbed her pants with a wet cloth and convinced the entire grade that peeing your pants was cool!

“I want to put my mom first because for once, she should get this sort of recognition. For once, she should understand the deep and sincere gratitude I have for all she has done for me throughout my seventeen years of life.”

The audience is alert, most holding the hands of their loved ones next to them, dressed elegantly, not a dry eye in the house. A woman grabs at her husband’s front coat pocket and takes a tissue from the rectangular on-the-go Kleenex packaging. She dabs at her eyes cautiously so as not to smear her makeup. She puts the entire package of tissues in her tiny purse.

The boy concludes:

“I love you with all my heart, ma. Thank you for being the mother and person that you are.”

The audience rises to their feet and erupts with applause. The boy walks off the stage and is greeted by warm hugs.

The crowd continues to cheer until a woman from the audience begins to walk toward the stage and approach the podium. She takes an on-the-go Kleenex package out of her purse, wipes at her eyes, and begins to speak.

“Thank you, Kevin. You are the most wonderful son a mom could ask for.”

Living Eulogies

Now, the speech given above from a son to a mother does not happen often. In fact, sadly, the only time I’ve ever heard somebody speak about another human being, let alone a family member — with this level of emotion, this level of gratitude, this level of raw heart — is during a eulogy.

During a eulogy, we are able to dive deep into the life of a human being. We are able to share character traits. We are able to share memories. We are able to share emotions. When delivering a eulogy, we speak about the person who passed with the utmost respect.

We let them and everybody attending know exactly how much they meant to us, and we tell them they will be forever cherished in our hearts.

But why don’t we do this for people when they’re alive? Why don’t we make grandiose gestures expressing our gratitude for somebody while they’re still here to listen? Why don’t we allow others to enjoy and understand the contributions they made to us and the rest of the world while they still have the ability and opportunity to hear and appreciate it?

Father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, created an activity called “The Gratitude Visit”, and he urges people to write a letter to somebody in their life expressing all that they have done for them.

Then, this person is to follow up by arriving at the other person’s doorstep and reciting this letter for them aloud. The benefits Seligman has uncovered from years of research are enhancements in overall well-being and lower levels of depression.

We need more gratitude visits. We need to have the courage to show up at somebody’s doorstep and tell them how amazing of a human being they are. Because even though it may seem silly, and even though we may think others know how much we love them, they don’t hear it enough. You’re never going to look back on your life and wish you said, “I love you; I appreciate you; I am grateful for you.” less than you actually did.

I know death and eulogies are touchy subjects. By no means do I write this to be morbid, and by no means do I write this to say that there’s anything wrong with the way we celebrate one’s life at the time of death.

But I do write this to hit a nerve and to spark a larger conversation. I write this to make the argument that if we were to provide people with a sort of eulogy while they were still living on this earth, we would aid in their positivity, we would aid in their mental health, and we would aid in the awareness that this person has had profound impacts on the people around them. And during this raw practice of gratitude, we as the givers would also reap the benefits of lifting somebody up, brightening their spirits, and coming from a place of benevolence that can reinvigorate the human condition.

In the scene with Kevin detailed above, it’s not a celebration of a life that somebody has already lived. But rather, it’s a celebration of a life that somebody is currently living.

In accordance with my own feelings about the importance of expressing the sincerest thanks to those in our lives whom we cherish most, it’s now my turn to look out at the audience of people, shuffle my papers, and recite a story of gratitude as I stand in front of the podium.

This story is fictional, but it demonstrates the revolutionary impact gratitude can have on people’s lives.

2 months before Kevin’s speech.

A woman in a black dress is sitting in the front row near the stage as a rabbi calls her up to say a few words. She hugs her two children as if she’s never going to let them go, then she kisses her husband, and she walks up to the rabbi. The rabbi gently nods his head and gestures to the podium. She has no papers, no flash cards, no PowerPoint slides. All she has are lessons and memories.

She stands confidently in front of a sea of people, and she begins to speak about the man for whom they’ve all congregated.

“For those of you traveling from out of town, for any former classmates or work colleagues, or for anybody just stopping by because this amazing man passed you on the street, talked your ear off and changed your life in one way or another, I am Sandra Roth-Crown. I’m mother to Kevin and Dara, wife to Barry Crown, and daughter of the beloved Huey Roth, for whom we’ve all gathered today.”

Sandra turns around and looks at the photo of her and her father behind her. A tear gently streams down the left side of her face, but she immediately wipes it away, smiles widely, and continues.

“Da. Da, da, da. Huey, as you all knew him.” She put his name in air quotes.

“My father was the kind of guy who saw a young couple wheeling a baby in a stroller, and from 50-feet across the street, attempted to make funny faces to make the baby smile. He then would proceed to run 50-feet and ask the couple all about the baby and how they were doing. I swear to you, he would have had 50 kids if it were possible.

“Just recently actually, my family and I were coming back from a trip we took to Spain. We brought Huey with us just before his health started to deteriorate. For the first part of a long flight, I decided to doze off, only to be awakened by a crying baby. But for some strange reason, this crying baby seemed oddly close to my ears.

“Now, we are a family of four. We had our own row on the plane. I had not seen a baby in either of the rows next to us, and I certainly was not informed that I was going to wake up from a two-hour nap with another child. Something did not add up. However, to my surprise, when I opened my eyes and looked to my right, I saw a baby staring my dad in the face as he held him up in front of him and raised him up and down while making rocket ship noises. ‘Hey Sandra, this is Jamal!’ My dad said to me like it was nothing.

“This is just the kind of life-loving, kind-hearted, playful guy this man was. He was truly a child at heart, and he made it so easy to be around him.

“His sense of humor, his work-ethic, his commitment to his family and loved ones are, sorry, were, unmatched, and I don’t think he heard enough each and every single day how much he impacted me and the person I am now.”

Sandra stops to catch her breath. She inhales, followed by a long exhale. She chuckles as she speaks.

“I want to share a bit more about my relationship with the world’s greatest man by describing what I view as the three levels of parenthood, or the three different levels I experienced during my relationship with my dad. You all remember Huey and his obsession with numbering everything.” She tries to imitate him by deepening her voice and pointing her finger.

“There are three phases of life. There are five things you must do every day. There are eighty-two qualities of leadership.” The crowd laughs with her.

“These levels of our relationship I hope will present a better picture of not just who he was to all of you, but who he was to one of the most important people in his life.” She stops.

“I hope.” She adds and grins.

“Level one was all about influence. How could my dad influence who I was growing up? I remember I was five years old, and I had just gotten on the field for my first ever intramural soccer game. I had squishable chubby cheeks, a tiny yet always runny nose, and long dirty blonde hair that always ended up in my mouth or covering my eyes.

“My arrival onto the field was less than ideal. Upon being substituted into the game, the ball — along with eight other five year old’s — raced toward me, and I fell backward onto my butt and immediately started to cry. The soccer field was not the place for me.

“But Da was a problem solver, and he knew that when you get knocked on your bum, yes, you get up and try again, but you also may need to try a bit differently.

“Da decided to accompany me onto the field and stand with me as I played goalie. I continued to cry and whine about not wanting to play or kick the ball, but he remained by my side. He continued to join me as I played goalie, and little by little, I became more confident. I was able to enjoy myself. I was able to let go of having da there and ultimately became pretty good at goalie, using my skills to get me into college.

“My father’s persistence and unique ability to not just take the easy way out shaped my childhood. That minor experience on the soccer field led to years of practice, years of teamwork, years of success in the sport. After winning multiple state championships, being the goalie for the New York State team and being on the third ranked team in the country, I can confidently attribute my childhood devotion and commitment to this game to my father’s own devotion and commitment to me. He refused to let me quit, and he stood by me until he saw I could do it on my own.

“I am so grateful for this influence he had on my mindset. It has always stuck with me.” Sandra reaches into a bag she had put on the side of the stage and takes out a pair of goalie gloves. She places them next to the picture of the two of them and returns to the podium.

“Once my path toward athletics was properly carved, it was now time for da to do whatever he could to guide me along this journey. Guidance was level two of his parenting. Two specific scenarios come to mind, and I would like to share both.

“I was standing on the pitcher’s mound now, a solid softball player. I was a chubby, but powerful thirteen-year-old, and I was cruising in this particular game. I had strikeout after strikeout, and I was chasing a no-hitter. But I was nervous, I was a perfectionist, and I wanted to achieve greatness. Coach Huey, as he was called at the time, motioned timeout to the umpire and approached the mound.

“Why would he be coming up here? There is no way he can take me out! What can he possibly say about the way I have been pitching? These were the thoughts going through my thirteen-year-old mind. But, when da finally arrived at the mound and started talking to me, it had nothing to do with baseball. ‘Ma just called. What do you want for dinner?’ He said with a smile on his face.

“I don’t remember what we ended up eating, but I do remember just smiling and shaking my head as he walked away. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

“As a coach and as the perfect guide, Da knew that all I needed was something to take my mind off of the no-hitter. I needed something to make me laugh. I ended up throwing the no-hitter, and I truly believe that had he not asked me what I wanted for dinner, that story would have had a different ending.

“Fast forward to my senior year of high school. I was throwing shot put in the County Championships. I was a bigger girl, but the people I competed against were even bigger.

“I was intimidated by the distance they were throwing the sixteen-pound steel ball, so I tried to put a little extra oomph into my first few tosses, and I ended up fouling on my throws, which was infuriating. But, seeing my frustration in my body language, Da came over and whispered something in my ear. I’ll never forget what he said.

“He came over to me and said, ‘these girls could throw me as far as I could throw that ball!’ We cracked up together, and the next time I got in the circle, I threw my personal best without fouling.

“Again, the perfect coach, the perfect guide knew exactly what to say to relieve the pressure, recapture my focus, and guide me to perform at my best. It was these little moments. It was these small little things that he did that I’ll remember most.” Sandra takes a softball out of her bag and places it next to the goalie gloves beside the picture.

“Finally, there was level three. Supporting me. Supporting me no matter what. Not too long ago, I was in a place of stability. Steady job. Steady salary. Prestigious title. But there was something missing. I didn’t feel fulfilled, and I toyed with the idea of wanting and pursuing more.

This mindset had developed into a burden on my day-to-day experiences at my job, and I did not think it was at all fair to my company or myself to continue in this place of uncertainty any longer. I was going to quit and do something else.

“I had just finished a sixteen-hour day, and I was drained. I thought about whether or not what I was doing was worth the mental and physical toll it was taking on my body. I ultimately decided it was not.

“Huey has been a banker since he graduated business school at age 25. He immediately went to work for a big firm, where for the next 50 years he enjoyed success and stability. Da had never experimented with the idea of doing something else or becoming something else. That was just not the way things were for him. Da did not have first-hand experience with deviating from the norm or going about life with uncertainty, so he did not want this for his children. This is why I too went into banking to begin my career.

“When I first brought up my desire to quit my job and pursue my purpose, I could sense his reluctance. He was being rather quiet, and his body language said something like, ‘You better rethink this.’ His words matched his body language and after a back and forth conversation with my mom, Da chimed in and said, ‘You better rethink this.’

“But it was not worth arguing with him, because a) we never argue and b) I knew I would not be able to fully convince him to rethink 50 years of his life in less than 30 minutes.

“I decided to quit.

“I believe that the fundamental principle of amazing parenting, and an amazing relationship with your child is to first share your opinions with your child and attempt to guide them in the direction you believe is best.

But the instant your child makes their decision, even if it is contrary to what you believe is best, you do damn near anything to get them to where they want to be. Despite past beliefs, unconventional opinions and disagreements, you become a supporter. The moment you flip from guide to incessant supporter, you have mastered the complicated art of parenting.

“A week after quitting my job and taking that time to regather my thoughts and ambitions, I told da that I wanted to revisit my love for baking and open up a cookie factory. Oh boy. The look I thought I was going to get.” The crowd laughs.

“But I was not met with any look at all. I was not met with reluctance. I was not met with push back. Instead I was met with one question: ‘Do you need a chief taste tester?’

“This shift, this role reversal from guide to supporter is what parents are meant to do. In lieu of his own opinions, he was still ready to do whatever it took to get his baby girl to where she wanted to be. This is parenting. More so, this is humaning. My dad was such an amazing human.” Sandra cries happy tears. She shares a few final words.

“In influencing me, in guiding me, and in supporting me, my dad, your Huey, has provided me with a life that is my own. He has allowed me to follow my dreams, and although maybe not agreeing wholeheartedly, he dropped his ego and his own beliefs to never make me feel alone. He always made me feel supported. He always told me how proud he was.”

Sandra takes out one more item from her bag. It’s a cookie with packaging that reads, ‘The Huey’ — a chocolate chip cookie filled with hazelnut filling. His favorite. She places it next to the softball and the goalie gloves.

“I appreciate you. I am forever grateful for your love. I love you, da.”

Hatching of an Idea

After the services concluded, Sandra and her family rode home together in their car. They were on the way to sit shiva, where friends and family would bring food, drinks, and continue to reminisce about Huey and the way he touched their lives.

“You were amazing sweetheart.” Barry said to Sandra lovingly, as he placed his hand just above her knee.

“Yea mom, you were awesome!” Said the spritely, ten-year old Dara. “If only grandpa were able to hear what you had to say! He would have been so happy!” Dara giggled. Her dad replied.

“He did hear mommy. He just heard her while looking down from heaven. He knows how much mommy loved him. He knows how much we all loved him.” Suddenly, Sandra turned around at the sound of a light sniffle.

“What’s the matter, Kevin?” She asked, seeing the more reserved seventeen-year-old wipe his eyes and try his best not to audibly make it known he was crying.

“Nothing. It’s nothing.” He whispered.

“You can tell us anything.” His mom replied. “It’s a very difficult time. We all know that.”

Kevin began to shake his head back and forth. “I never really told grandpa how much I loved him. I never told him how awesome he was. I never told him about how much I loved our awesome catches, sleepovers, or Chinese food feasts. I just wish I would have told him more while he was still here.”

Sandra and Barry looked at each other. They were unsure of what to say. So they didn’t say anything at all.

“I think it’d be great if people knew how much others loved them while they were still alive.” Kevin said aloud. “I know I don’t say it enough, but I love you guys, I really do.”

“I love you too!” Dara screamed through separated teeth.

“Maybe we ought to start telling people how we feel more often.” Sandra replied. She looked at Kevin with a big grin and told him how he better get used to her telling him how much she loves him even more than she already does.

One month before Kevin’s speech

An astonishingly tall man walks to the center of a packed arena. 25,000 fans roar as his name echoes among the rafters. He takes his place on the half court logo, and he takes the microphone excitedly from the announcer. He waits for everyone to quiet down. Then he emphatically screams, “Can we get one more Staten Island scream for Stan The Man Jeffries?!?!”

The crowd erupts once more. The camera pans to Stan Jeffries, Hall of Fame shooting guard for the Staten Island Storm, New York’s most beloved basketball team. Stan is retired now, much older than the players about to partake in the game following his ceremony. His jersey is being hung up in the rafters of the stadium. One of his former teammates, the man with the microphone, again waits for everybody to settle down before he shares fond memories of his playing days with Stan The Man.

“Could this guy dunk or what?” He says as the crowd again cheers. Stan is seen smiling and laughing on the Jumbotron.

“I promise you all, every time Stan would jump, I thought he was flying. He was the closest thing to real life magic I ever came across. But let me tell you all a little something about magic. Magic is not given out by a genie. Magic is not hand delivered to a mother for her to give to her child when they’re born. Magic is not a gift that anybody receives without deserving it. No, no. That’s not magic at all.

“Magic is a culmination of all of the hard work that nobody else sees. Magic is an everyday devotion to a particular craft no matter how tedious or boring it may be. Magic is a conscious awareness of the minute daily improvements that nobody else may realize. Magic is what happens when you show things to people that seem impossible. Magic is practice. Magic is training. Magic is experimenting and attempting to reach new heights while pushing through any adversity to become the best you can be.” The crowd gives a standing ovation.

“Magic is Stan Jeffries waking up at 4am to greet the maintenance team and help get the gym set up for an early morning workout.

“Magic is Stan Jeffries walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator no matter how high up we stayed when on the road.

“Magic is Stan Jeffries breaking his leg and being told he’d never play basketball again, only to come back a season later and win the league’s most improved player award.

“Magic is Stan Jeffries playing nineteen years in this league and leading the Staten Island Storm to a championship in his last ever season.” The fans are ecstatic. They’re up on their feet, high fiving, jumping, screaming like they won the championship all over again. But then the man with the microphone softens his voice.

“But Stan Jeffries was not just magic on the court. His physicality wasn’t the only thing magical about him.

“Magic is Stan Jeffries raising his younger brothers and sisters when his mom and dad were busy working.

“Magic is Stan Jeffries buying a bouquet of flowers and giving it to a different homeless woman in New York City every single Saturday and Sunday he was in town.

“Magic is Stan Jeffries flying halfway across the country to sit by the hospital bed of one of his former teammates for a week straight until he fully recovered from surgery. I will never forget that you did that for me, Stan.” He waits as the crowd once again stands and applauds.

“Magic really happens when nobody is watching. Stan Jeffries is magic, and he deserves every single bit of this magical night.”

Kevin and his buddy Nick are watching this jersey hanging ceremony on TV while laying on Kevin’s couch. The show goes to commercial and Nick speaks.

“How come famous people are so celebrated all the time? Why do people who already have every reason to feel good are given so many additional opportunities to feel good about themselves and everything they’ve done? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Stan The Man Jeffries as much as the next Staten Island Storm fan, but it just seems a bit much. It’s excessive. Why can’t regular people get Hall of Fame speeches? Why can’t you or I have somebody talk us up to the entire grade and tell everybody how awesome we are? I just feel like we need to make these sorts of praiseworthy events more accessible.”

Kevin looks at his friend and then immediately hops off the couch. He sprints to grab a pen and paper, and he comes back to the room. He begins writing vigorously. At the top of his notepad, he writes the phrase GratiTalks.

All Ideas Have Potential

Kevin is always coming up with crazy ideas. Like the one about his bunk-bed style restaurant concept, where diners would eat above one another. Or the one about creating a sandwich that had imprints in the bread, so you knew the best place to put your fingers. Yea, those kinds of ideas.

But his mom loved every single one of them. That’s the entrepreneur in her. Most of his ideas were a little out there. They’re usually a bit idealistic and naïve, but that’s the beauty of a seventeen-year-old brain. But sometimes Kevin has a good idea. Sometimes, Kevin has an idea that just might work.

Kevin continued to write in his notepad and basically ignore Nick for a half hour until finally, he revealed his plan. Nick, being Kevin’s best friend, always supported Kevin’s ideas. But this time, he didn’t just support the idea. He actually thought there was a possibility this could be huge.

Usually when Kevin had an idea, he’d scribble down his thoughts on his notepad, he’d get all excited, and he’d run to his mom with mostly incomplete thoughts and just a concept. But this time was a little different. He still sprinted to his mom’s room and out of breath began to tell her about his idea, but now, he kind of had everything figured out. He had a full plan, and he explained it to his mom in great detail, without so much as taking a breath.

“So, mom. Remember when grandpa passed away, and I was so upset because I didn’t get the chance to say how grateful I was for him while he was still alive? Well, me and Nick were just watching a ceremony for Stan Jeffries, and his teammates were giving him these amazing speeches. They were saying the nicest things about him, just like you said about grandpa. Except in this case, Stan was alive to hear these kind words. He was there in person to learn firsthand what sort of impact he’d made on other people’s lives. He was able to realize how much others loved and cared about him.

“Then Nick went on a little rant about why these kinds of talks are only saved for people who are already amazing and probably get told every day how amazing they are. And I sat there thinking about how the only other time I could think that people are talked about like this is during eulogies. So, I came up with an idea to make a eulogy or jersey hanging ceremony kind of talk be more accessible to people like you and me.

“I call it GratiTalks.”

He flipped the notepad around and showed his mom his chicken scratch handwriting consisting of arrows, venn diagrams, bullet points, and a ton of exclamation points. He continued to explain to her how it would work.

“So, the idea is pretty simple, and there are a lot of different variations and follow-up events we can have related to it, but I see the first one going down as follows. Let’s keep it small, so maybe three talks for ten minutes each, so the event is only around 30 minutes.

“I will choose one person in my life who I believe deserves a GratiTalk. A GratiTalk is a speech that highlights how amazing somebody is while they’re still alive to hear it.

“Then, I will tell this person before the event, and I will also invite ten people who I know this person has also influenced in some way.

“So, say I choose Nick. I will tell Nick he is receiving a GratiTalk, and he will also then have to choose his own person to give a GratiTalk. He’ll invite ten people who that person has influenced and so on.

“Or, it can be different talks all for the same person. So, I can choose two other people to also give a talk about Nick, and we’ll make the list of guests together.

“In the future, we can have themed talks, like GratiTalks for Daughters, GratiTalks for Teachers, GratiTalks for Soldiers and so on. I imagine there being talks all around the country, people setting up independently run GratiTalk events for however many and whatever kind of people they want. It can be like TED Talks and they can be videotaped and turned into awesome YouTube videos!”

Sandra put her finger up to her son’s lips. “Say no more.” She said. “Let’s make this happen.”

The Idea Comes to Life

For the next few weeks, Sandra, Kevin, and Nick prepared for the first ever GratiTalk event. Sandra’s cookie company was going to provide the snacks and refreshments. She also had various connections to different venues through her work with catering companies. She was able to secure a 50-person room for a full hour on a Wednesday evening, so work and school didn’t interfere with attendance.

Nick and Kevin planned out how they were going to spread the word. They sent personal, handwritten invites. They set up social media accounts and hired a video production team. They told as many friends as they could. They reached out to local press and certain news outlets in the area.

The three created the schedule for the night. It was to start with a brief intro from Nick, who would explain to everyone the event that they had created. He’d also encourage people to consider putting on their own GratiTalk events moving forward. Then, he’d go into the first ever GratiTalk. He chose to speak about his golf coach, a quiet man who had made a huge difference in Nick’s life. Then, Nick’s coach, also a biology teacher, was going to speak about the principal of their school, a wise marketing tactic which would definitely fill up the seats in the crowd. Lastly, the principal decided to give a GratiTalk about her wife, a tribute to a woman she loved so dearly. To close off the night, Kevin wanted to come back up on stage and share a final message with the audience.

The participants had written their speeches. They could not be more excited. The first ever GratiTalk event was about to commence.

1 minute before Kevin’s speech.

The night was a massive success. Nick started off great, with a heartfelt tribute to Coach Singh. He mentioned how without his encouragement, Nick probably wouldn’t even be going to college. Golf paved the way for him to really believe in something and more importantly, believe in himself.

Then, Coach Singh gave a surprising — well surprising to the students — emotional rollercoaster of a GratiTalk to Principal Weaver. Coach Singh said that she took a gamble on him when he was a broke, insecure immigrant with no job prospects. He was hopeless, helpless, but Principal Weaver didn’t believe in helpless. She provided him with an opportunity to change his life. And he repaid her by changing the lives of every student who walked through his door.

Principal Weaver gave an incredibly warm speech to her wife to close out the official GratiTalk portion of the night. She documented their tumultuous journey of becoming legally married, which was highlighted by a beautiful description of the day they were finally wed.

Then, it was Kevin’s turn. With the little time they had left, he planned something short and special. He wasn’t a great public speaker, and he was as nervous as he was getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time. But he knew he had to say something. He knew he had to share a GratiTalk of his own.

“Hi. My name is Kevin. But that’s all I would like to say about me at the moment, because today is not about me. Today is about somebody else.” He paused and looked up at the enormous chandelier in the middle of the hall.

“My mom has always put everyone else first. At her job, her employees come first. In her social life, her friends come first. In our family, we all come first. She has always been the kind of woman you call when something goes wrong. No matter what she’s doing, she’ll always be there to give advice or lend a helping hand, no questions asked.

“But today, today I want to put my mom first. She deserves to be put first every once in a while. Today, I want to tell you all how amazing she really is.

“I want to tell you about the time I couldn’t fall asleep growing up, so she stayed awake night after night, rocking me in every different blanket we owned until my eyes finally shut.

“I want to tell you about the time when I was embarrassed to start wearing glasses, so she wore glasses to work for a week straight, even though she had perfect 20/20 vision.

“I want to tell you about the time when I wet my pants on a school field trip, and she dabbed her pants with a wet cloth and convinced the entire grade that peeing your pants was cool!

“I want to put my mom first because for once, she should get this sort of recognition. For once, she should understand the deep and sincere gratitude I have for all she has done for me throughout my seventeen years of life.”

“I love you with all my heart, ma. Thank you for being the mother and person that you are.”

Sandra, totally shocked, walked to the stage.

“Thank you, Kevin. You are the most wonderful son a mom could ask for.”

She continued to tell the audience more about this amazing event her son and his best friend put together. She revealed the importance of it — to emphasize and celebrate people in our lives for no particular reason at all. Just because they deserved to be recognized. To remind others that they matter. To remind them that they are loved. To remind them that they belong. She thanked everyone for being there once more, she urged them to try some of her cookies, especially the Huey, and she made a simple request. She requested that whether they decide to create a GratiTalk event like this or not, it’s essential that people continue to let others know what they mean to them. With that kind of appreciation, positivity, and gratitude, the world would begin to become a much brighter and optimistic place.

1 year after Kevin’s speech.

Well, the boys did it. Kevin’s speech about his mom went viral. Nick was immediately contacted to coordinate a GratiTalk for Coaches, Mr. Singh was asked to do one for teachers, and Principal Weaver was asked to spearhead one for the LGBTQ community.

The next year was an absolute whirlwind. In total, there were over 50 GratiTalk events around the country, highlighted by an event an entire high school came together to host, where 25 different students gave GratiTalks about a classmate who was going through some extraordinarily difficult mental health issues. The student described it as, “an unexpected event that lifted my spirit to a place I did not imagine was possible.”

Kevin, Nick, and Sandra have been interviewed by major media outlets countless times to explain GratiTalks and continue to share the wonderful stories associated with this simple yet transformative idea.

When asked in a recent interview who would be the ideal person to host and speak at a GratiTalk event, the founders answered in unison.

“Anyone.” They all laughed. Then Kevin continued.

“The beauty of GratiTalks is that they are 100% universal. Anyone can give one. Anyone can receive one. It’s a movement that’s making people realize while they’re still on this earth, just how much they mean to those around them. Sure, GratiTalks are an event, but expressing gratitude for others should be a daily occurrence. Tell your mom you appreciate her baking. Tell your sister you’re so thankful she’s always smiling. Tell your grandpa how big of an impact he’s made on your life. You’ll be grateful you did.”

This story is not real. GratiTalks are not real. But that does not have to remain true for long. I urge you to create some sort of GratiTalk in any way possible. With social distancing, we may have to get creative, but try it on skype or zoom. Write a friend a letter. Send a loved one a text. Don’t be afraid to compliment another human being. Don’t be afraid to make yourself vulnerable and tell somebody else how much they mean to you.

GratiTalks are just one idea that represents a much larger societal need — the need to openly appreciate those around us. The need to understand that we are appreciated. Once we really begin to understand these core principles, we will all begin to realize how similar we really are.


Created by

Jordan Gross

Sharing personal development through creative storytelling







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