How a city embraced the spirit of gratitude.

When was the last time you were on the receiving end of an expression of gratitude? How did it make you feel?

In 2005, New Orleans was hit by the perfect storm. Life for many was changed forever. Through it all , Hurricane Katrina taught me a lot about the importance of gratitude. I saw a humbled city embrace the spirit of gratitude as many around the world opened their hearts and their pocketbooks. I saw businesses open their doors to people who weren’t even their customers at the time just because these folks needed a helping hand. I saw more than one restaurant owner go out into the community and offer free food for the multitudes of volunteers who came to New Orleans to aid in the recovery. For these gestures of kindness, we will forever be grateful.

Recently, my wife and I gathered together with family and friends on the 10th anniversary of Katrina. We reminisced about the shared experience and looked at old pictures. We talked about the lessons learned.

Katrina taught us that the experiences of your life are often the greatest ideas you use to serve others. Katrina helped us further master life and the art of living and giving. The whole Katrina experience broadened my perspective on what really matters… the relationships with the people in your life.

Looking back, even with all the trials and inconveniences, we agreed we all should be filled with gratitude.

Gratitude for…..

  • The ordinary things we take for granted like air conditioning, electricity and water
  • The verification that things don’t matter, relationships do
  • The importance of focusing on and appreciating what we do have
  • The life long relationships that were strengthened during that experience
  • The focus on what’s important, what our values are.

A vivid example that sharing is caring that emerged from Katrina was the story of an out of state woman who placed her gold wedding band in an envelope at church for a collection for Katrina victims. A note she wrote on the envelope read, ” For the victims of the hurricane. I did not bring any money, but this should be of some value. It is with all of my heart.

The amazing spirit of gratitude in the midst of changed lives, shattered dreams and broken hearts prompted me to reflect on how the power of gratitude impacts our businesses every day as well. As a result, I will soon be releasing my new book, Gratitude Marketing. This book is intended to help you use the principles of gratitude to develop and nurture deeper, long term relationships with your clients. While traditional marketing speaks at people, Gratitude Marketing engages and connects.

Whether or not the business I referred to earlier realized it at the time, they were practicing gratitude. They were paying it forward and building lifelong relationships with people who were placed in their path by circumstance. At the time, I marveled at the ability to bring so much value to so many people without ever expecting anything in return. How have these businesses done in the ten years since the storm? In a word, magnificently.

The community has never forgotten their gracious gestures and remains fiercely loyal to these businesses. To me, these businesses are in the minds of their loyal clients because of the generosity they extended. These businesses demonstrated gratitude and recognized their privilege to serve.