Valedictory Day (Chapel, Avenue of Honour, Morning Tea on the Sports Concourse) was beautiful. Mr Bassingthwaighte wove a wonderful verbal picture of the Class of 2020's journey through Somerset, Desmond Chuah and Georgina Powell spoke powerfully giving us all many giggles and some tears, and Raiden Kyaw’s frank and entertaining speech on behalf of the Class of 2025 stole the show.

There was the glory of the choral pieces, the power of the prayers and, to top it off, the joy of the Avenue of Honour. Students from Pre-Prep to Year 11 lined up to farewell their Seniors with hoops, high and low fives, and many hugs.

In amongst the bubble of words that flowed from within the ceremony through the Avenue of Honour and down onto the Concourse, there are some that rode to prominence (“sad”, “miss you so much”, “amazing”, “incredible”, “kind”, “great effort”, “character”) but one phrase in particular stood out from all others in terms of both frequency and sincerity, “thank you”.

There were thank yous from Valedictorians to teachers, and especially emotional thank yous to teachers from their early past at Somerset.

There were thank yous from teachers to students for the way they had been easy to teach, and the pride they have brought to their teachers by their achievements.

I even managed to overhear thank yous from children to their parents for the sacrifices they had made to bring the graduation about, and thank yous from parents to daughters and sons for the joy they had given them.

All these thank yous were sincere, timely, and wonderful, they stirred the heart, but it got me to thinking is this it? Is this all? Are the thanks given on important occasions the ones that really count?

They mean a lot, and are long remembered, but I suspect that there is another style of thank you that makes a bigger difference, is even more important. It is not the automatic thank you to which we in polite society have been trained. It is the sneak attack, the thanks that comes unexpectedly and, even better, as an appreciation the recipient did not expect.

When speaking to students about “blowing their parents away” with unexpected thanks or love I suggest an idea. Write a little note before school and stick it somewhere your mum will find it when you are not around, stick it inside her sandwich or something*. It usually brings great chuckles, but every now and then a student will dare try the idea.

Many years ago, I was presenting to regional staff the day after I had spoken in one of their high schools. As the teachers arrived one woman was excitedly talking to as many people as possible, her face fixed with a smile which, were it not so lovely, would be clownish. The story she told was that she had gone to eat her mandarin for lunch that day but had stopped because there seemed to be evidence of tampering.

She carefully peeled the fruit and pulled apart the segments. There at its heart, where seeds normally live, was a screwed-up ball of paper. Unscrewing it revealed a note from her 14 year old son (who had been in my session the day before) “Mum, I know I’m hard to live with sometimes but I love you and think you are terrific”.

That teacher’s life was changed, her joy restored, at least for that one day but probably for life. The boy was likely a fair pain that afternoon, but his sneak attack thank you to his mum gave her hope for the future and strength to cope. That boy will be a man of 23 now and I suspect he is everything she prayed he would be, and that every now and then in a quiet moment she has a smile or a tear as she recalls the crumpled missive that supplied confidence to her aspiration that day.

Thank yous as a sneak attack, now there is a strategy. Seek the most unlikely times or ways to deliver your appreciation, especially for the things that long go unnoticed, and you will deliver a joy that is both full and enduring.

Much as I’d like to claim creative genius for the note idea, I can’t. It is one I stole from a very wise mentor

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