Josh Kramer

Thank you. That is how I close most email messages, and let me tell you, I send and receive a lot throughout my day. Ending a message with “thank you” has become habit for me, almost to the point, I fear, of overuse. I worry if these two meaningful words, together, have lost their chutzpah.

Like many things, responses have become automatic.

“How are you doing?” “Good. And you?” we quickly reply.

But how are you doing, actually? Have there been days you weren’t “good,” and by not saying so, did you miss an opportunity for an authentic interaction?

What about texts? Is your phone notifying you of messages more than you care to reply? Do you feel an obligation to respond? What would be the worst thing to happen if you didn’t immediately reply to that text message? Could you try putting down the phone, maybe save some of that energy for yourself?

How about those pictures you post online from a birthday celebration? Do those photos come with an expiration date? Do you have to post them to the social-media-verse before Aunt Ethel does? Or could you capture the images and feelings and experiences of that birthday for yourself, adding another colorful picture to your own memory bank?

This is not to say we shouldn’t have social media, or cellphones have ruined society, or we should share our true feelings with everyone we meet. Certainly, some instances require an automatic response or a quick action. But others don’t. In these moments, it is OK to pause, take a minute for yourself, clear the noise, think and reflect. Be intentional – with your words and actions.

I did a little test with my kids. I asked them what comes to mind when they hear “thank you.” Their responses ranged from “No problem,” “Donuts,” “My home,” “Umm, you’re welcome. … Is everything OK?” to what I thought was the most reflective answer, “I feel accomplished and that I really did something helpful.”

While their responses reflect their ages, they also demonstrate how individuals uniquely receive words. It is a reminder to not just seek intentionality with words, but with the actions that follow.

Fortunately, November offers opportunities to be intentional with our words and actions.

On Nov. 8, Election Day, vote. Don’t stop there. Volunteer at the polls or serve on a canvassing board. Learn how local elections work.

On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, indeed express thanks to our veterans. Then, put thanks into action. Learn about veterans’ issues, ask a veteran how they’re doing, donate to veteran causes, or give the gift of your time.

On Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day, pause not to only give thanks, but to be an example of gratitude. Choose the intentional conversation, not the automatic one.

Thank you to our poll workers and veterans, and happy Thanksgiving (said with intention)!

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at