Today’s task is to write a letter or card of appreciation to one of your parents (or parental figures). Tell them how much they mean to you. Be specific. Don’t just thank them for always being there and providing for you. Thank them for helping you through a specific situation or for a certain piece of advice they gave you and the results of following that advice. Thank them for the support they gave you while you made a difficult decision. Thank them for teaching you right and wrong and tell them how that has been valuable in your life in specific ways.

We’re asking you to write to this person instead of call them because it gives them a tangible reminder of the influence they’ve had in your life. The person you choose to write in appreciation will be able to read through your note whenever they need encouragement. It lasts longer than a phone conversation, and it shows how much you appreciate them if you actually take the time to sit down and write something out. And no, e-mail doesn’t count.

I'm ashamed to say that this challenge took me a bit out of my comfort zone.  Not because I'm unappreciative of my parents, but because I somehow felt awkward calling that out.  I spend a great deal of time with both of them, and I'm frequently thanking them for the things they've done and the sacrifices they've made ... but on some level I feel that I also take that for granted.

So this morning, before anyone got up, I walked to the store and purchased two fancy thank you cards.  It's hard to find attractive blank cards, but I managed to find a pair that fit my parents pretty well.  Then I took most of the afternoon to consider what I wanted to say.

And that was hard.

My parents have done so much for me.  From teaching me to cook to teaching me to fish.  From coaching me out of quitting graduate school to helping me move home when I struck out in the job market and spent 6 months looking for a new gig.  They've helped back me in little ways that are easy to take for granted ... which makes the big ways they've helped me out that much easier to take in stride.

So this was a welcome challenge.  It pushed me to show my appreciation now, not 6 months from now when I think of just the right sentiment but miss the opportunity.  It helped me to recognize that their love and support and sacrifice is something to be treasured and demonstrably appreciated.