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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

Thanks Given


Every morning of camp, we come together to share our gratitude towards one another through the Thank You Bowl.


At TLC, everything we do is centered around giving thanks to others.  It is where everything starts and everything ends.  Everything.  Our daily Thank You Bowl where we draw from the bowl and read each morning thank you notes campers have written for staff and staff have written for campers.  Our random Gratitude Minutes at camp, which come in the middle of intense drills and everyone drops to the ground for a minute to think of what they are grateful for.  Our staff meetings where we begin each meeting with staff throwing out thanks to other staff members for the little (and big) things they did to make the acknowledger’s life a little better.  Without them, we are just tennis players running around in funny outfits hitting a little ball back and forth (or, in my case, into the net).  With them, we are our better selves.

Every morning for many years, since I get up earlier than my wife and daughter (5 AM, hard to get anyone up earlier than that), I start the day by making my pot of decaf coffee (My wife says why do you even bother?  I say you do not want to see me on caffeine) and a handwritten note, a short note, a love note, I guess you would call it, but it really is about being thankful for what they mean to me.  When my daughter is not here, I just write my wife.

This morning, our daughter is coming home from college for Thanksgiving weekend.  And what I wrote to my wife today – over decaf – was the truth about what having them in my life does.

But first, let me tell you what having them in my life does not do.  It does not make difficult things go away.  It does not protect me from circumstances that might happen during a day (a rude store clerk, a disrespectful colleague, an escaped carjacking – to which I must just add a note from personal experience, do not pick up strangers!!!);  cancer of a friend (or who knows, maybe me someday?); it does not cure depression, it does not prevent people from dying, because, secret here, all people do eventually die; it does not prevent mean people from being mean, it does not make cheaters not cheat; it does not erase my own mistakes when I speak an unkind word or do an unkind deed; it does not prevent painful things in life from occurring, or even recurring.


Campers and staff taking a moment of reflection during the Gratitude Minute.


What it does do is this.  (And, by the way, I discover new things each time I write a short note, so that is a benefit to me every morning by having me focus outside myself to start the day, no matter how I am feeling).

I will let the note speak for itself.

“I am so glad to be a part of your life. It makes all hard things easier And all good things better.”

Perhaps being grateful does not protect us from life’s slings and arrows.  But it makes them easier to bear.  Being grateful means we are forced to remember we are not in this battle alone.  And that makes all the difference.

So, today, first, I encourage you to write a short note of gratitude to someone who has helped you make the hard things in life easier and the good things in life better.  Three sentences.  It will take you two minutes away from your turkey or your football game.

Second, I encourage you to – with your family or by yourself – set aside one minute.  Just one.  Set a timer.  Stop everything.  And just sit and be grateful for whatever you are grateful for.

Third.  Brew a pot of decaf so someone else other than myself can be made fun of.

Happy Thanksgiving from Tennis & Life Camps.  We are grateful you are a part of our mission.

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