There are many things I envy about Tami Taylor, the famously empathetic yet take-no-shit matriarch of Friday Night Lights: her perfect hair, her prodigious wine intake, her ability to always say the right thing. But while watching the show, one thing that really grabbed me was her capacity for casual gratitude.
Casual gratitude is a term I just made up, to distinguish it from the more serious, mindful, let-me-sit-down-and-count-my-blessings practice of gratitude, or the formal gratitude of, say, a thank you note, or a life debt. As the Taylors flurried around their Texas kitchen and the local high school, Tami was always quick to recognize others for the small favors they did for her with a “thank you” or “I appreciate it.” And it’s how she says it. She doesn’t make a big deal out of it, just thanks people casually, but with grace and sincerity, and then she moves on. A simple thank you for a simple kindness.
This is hard to do! It requires that you pay attention to what other people do, and not get sucked into taking simple kindnesses for granted—or, worse, apologizing.
This year, my best friend Cortney told me her New Year’s resolution was to stop saying “sorry” when she meant to say “thank you.” She got this from a great web comic by Yao Xiao, which shows the contrast between things like “Thanks for listening” and “Sorry I’m rambling,” or between “Thanks for waiting,” and “Sorry I’m late.” Watching Tami Taylor’s casual gratitude reminded me of this, and I’ve started noticing when I and others opt for “sorry” or “thanks” and thinking about what it means.