When ‘thank you’ is simply not enough
Literature suggests that gratitude is good for us. Countless case studies prove that people who feel gratitude are less likely to be depressed and worried and more likely to feel satisfied with their lives. Research shows that people who practise gratitude are more likely to help others, share, volunteer and donate.
In Grade 7, Jennifer Erie, a young Syracuse University graduate, visited our local school to motivate us to ‘dream big’. I told her I am going to be a teacher, and her reply kind of blew my mind: ‘You can be anything you want to be. You can be a pilot, an astronaut, the first South African on the moon. You can even be the president! The next Nelson Mandela.’ Those words! Something shifted that day. Mandela? Me?
A few months later Jennifer would help me to get into the only local high school that offered computer studies. She said my family will not need to worry about paying school fees for the next five years. It was a humbling moment and the only words that could come out of my mouth were ‘Thank you, Jennifer, thank you.’ She smiled and told me: ‘If you want to thank me, do so by being the best learner in your grade and graduate with top marks.’ It was a weird conversation: all she had to say was ‘You’re welcome.’ But no, she left me with a burden: this thank you was going to take at least five years before she accepts it!
In Grade 11, a few of my classmates and I were selected by SAICA to attend Thuthuka extra maths, English, and accounting classes. The classes dramatically improved our marks. I thanked the programme manager, Nthato Selebi, for this amazing intervention. He said the only way to thank Thuthuka is by giving back to the programme. Another burden!
These experiences laid a foundation for the type of leader I would later become. What started as another weight added to my shoulders has become my passion. My mentors taught me that words are good, but results are more important − especially when it comes to developing leaders. Human beings have a duty to be of value to others, and this should be normal − our factory setting. This is the core of socio-economic development and transformation. 17 years later I find myself still giving back not only to Thuthuka but to every programme I benefited from. Every ‘thank you’ I get from a trainee or mentee is returned with the standard ‘Don’t thank me; become a CA(SA), inspire others.’
There is a shortage of mentors and coaches in our profession. A Thuthuka alumni network would be a great platform for graduates to give back and show their gratitude. Imagine each student having their own personal mentor just one WhatsApp away!
‘To whom much is given, much will be required.’
How are you showing your gratitude?