January is a time for new beginnings, as everyone rings in the new year and makes new resolutions. However, with this opportunity for a fresh start comes an opportunity to show appreciation and take a step back to say, “Thank you.”
Every year throughout the whole month of January, National Thank You Month brings a chance for people to start the year off with grateful hearts and appreciative attitudes. For some like Audrey Grone, saying “Thank you” can make all the difference. 
“A ‘Thank you’ goes a long way,” Grone, a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University, said. “And you don't have to be over-excited about me handing you your coffee, but just a thank you is all I personally need, and that shows me that you appreciate it. And it's honestly just the respectful thing to do.”
Grone is one of the managers at Brenen’s Coffee Cafe, 38 S. Court St., and knows firsthand how impactful saying “Thank you” to people in the food service industry can be. She can honestly say that 90% of the customers she interacts with are appreciative.
She also recognizes that when customers say “Thank you,” it puts the employees in a good mood, which then becomes infectious toward the rest of the employees and, typically, has a positive impact on the customers of the business. 
“I personally feel energy is contagious,” Grone said. “And if I'm in a super good mood, that is most likely going to bounce on other people as well. And a lot of people are like, ‘Audrey, you're always in such a good mood.’ And I'm always just like, ‘Well, I'm so thankful, and I'm thankful I have a job – I'm thankful to be here.’ And that rubs off on other people as well.”
But food service industry workers aren’t the only ones in thankless jobs. Steve Mack, director of facilities management at OU, acknowledges the fact that even though the facilities employees do so much work to keep the university running, they get very little recognition.
“We're the people that keep the electric on; we keep the water in the pipes; we make sure the place is clean and safe to use,” Mack said. “The university is a very large facility – it’s a city in and of itself. And the facilities staff is the staff that keeps that city running. People don't think about, ‘Hey, I've got electric, that's great, because so many people have done their job.’ It's not really, typically, a positive feedback industry.”
Mack believes appreciation is within human nature – both the need for appreciation and the practice of showing appreciation. Because the facility management positions all operate behind the scenes and aren’t usually public-facing, it means all the more to him when people recognize his staff for all the hard work they do.
Further, Mack emphasized just how unglamorous a lot of the jobs can be when working in facilities management. Jobs like unclogging toilets, changing light bulbs or contributing to the general beautification of the campus are often tedious and difficult to do, Mack said. Though his employees hear how much he appreciates them on a regular basis, it definitely makes the team feel more appreciated when other university staff or students make appreciative comments.
The university staff and students aren’t the only ones trying to encourage infectious appreciation – others in the community are doing their part to spread that positivity around. One such community member is Joe Higgins, a Nelsonville resident who started a social media series called “On A Positive Note” where he features a person or group in the community deserving of some extra appreciation.
“It's basically just to give people their flowers – creating a platform to highlight someone or something,” Higgins said. “The main thing of it, though, is just to let other people comment on that person. Because I may say something about them that hopefully brightens their day a little bit, but the goal is to allow other people to comment and make their feelings known about that person as well.”
Higgins started the series, found on Facebook and Twitter, to encourage others to take the time out of their day to comment something positive – a demeanor of which he feels social media is in dire need.
As a journalist, Higgins sees firsthand the way social media can create the illusion of interaction without having any real interaction at all. However, he also realizes that though a lot of the content can be negative, the interactive illusion doesn’t have to be. That’s why when people continue commenting their appreciation on his Facebook series, the subjects of the posts can feel like people are positively interacting with them.
In a similar vein, Higgins feels bad news is what dominates the news cycle, so spreading happiness in a media format can be a nice change of pace. 
“The ultimate goal would be to have everybody do something like this on their own to find their own way to spread positivity on social media,” Higgins said. “That's easy to do for people to pile on or to add to the negativity, but it takes effort to be nice or to just be positive. It's really just a positive note that literally would somehow spark people to just try to think twice before they lean to the negative side that's so easy and instead make an effort to be positive to someone else in their life.”
Grone, Mack and Higgins all encourage people to look back to lessons that have been taught since a very young age: respect and kindness. All three know that when it comes down to it, showing appreciation is just a form of respect and kindness, and simply saying “Thank you” can make a significant impact on the individual employees and the company culture as a whole.
“Take a step back and don't walk through life in a daze,” Mack said. “Make sure you appreciate everything that's going on around you and just thank people. Just appreciate what people do for you – don't take it for granted.”

Illustration by Mary Berger
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