Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

Gratitude Redux

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to express my appreciation for many blessings:

Family, health, a new community, meaningful work, and sustenance: from the earth, our colleagues, trainees and friends old and new.

I am reposting an essay about a how the simple act of daily thanks transformed a man’s life for the better. It’s an inspiring story.

I hope that you have a meaningful Thanksgiving.



I just read a book called 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik.

I heard an interview with the author on NPR, and it caught my attention.

Kralik had been down on his luck in 2007: divorced twice, overweight, with a struggling law firm that he’d started, he was also failing in a new romantic relationship. He was worried about losing his seven year-old daughter, too, in a custody dispute.

He made a momentous decision: Instead of feeling sorry for himself (easy to do given his predicaments), he decided to be grateful for what he had. To show it, he vowed to write a thank you note every day for the next year.

What do you think happened?

His life changed. For the better. His relationship improved. His clients started paying their bills and his firm’s financial footing solidified. His health improved. He eventually achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a judge. To top it off, he turned his personal quest into a writing project. Within minutes of writing a book proposal, he received responses from agents who hoped to shepherd his project.

Every writer’s dream……

I’ll grant you that it sounds hokey. But there are a couple of things the book demonstrated to me:

Making a commitment to change is never easy. Kralik decided to change his perspective, and his results are indeed stunning. But he’s quite open about the fact that it was a process, and a lengthy one at that. He had times when he felt like giving up. Crises arose in which he didn’t write a note for several weeks. Sometimes he just flat out felt that he had nothing to be grateful for. But he always came back to his task.

And people really responded to him: from government officials, to clients, to his Starbuck’s barista. Everyone likes gratitude. We are human. It helps to know that our work and our humanity are appreciated.

There are other personal resonances: Kralik hails from Cleveland. Even as a lawyer, he shunned corporate law for his own values-driven law firm. He wrote a mission statement, and was rankled with inner turmoil when he strayed too far from it.

I guess to sum it up I’d write Judge Kralik a thank you letter of my own:

Dear Judge Kralik:

Thank you for sharing your story with me.

I am truly inspired by how you were able to turn your life around. As a doctor, I am touched by the mission-driven aspect of your legal work. In addition, I find that your quest to allow gratitude to suffuse every aspect of your life really provided a beautiful level of harmony to your story. I plan to share your story with patients and colleagues; I am always moved by ideas and examples that take something simple (e.g. the thank you note) and make it a habit that can lead to a virtuous cycle.

Congratulations on your professional and personal successes. I hope that they continue.


John Henning Schumann, M.D.


  1. kelly

    Dr. John– That was truly inspiring. Thank YOU for sharing. I LOVE this blog!

  2. Beth O'Shea

    This is beautiful. You’ve inspired me to show appreciation to all those around me. I always think of writing people a note of thanks for the everyday simple things they do, and so often don’t get around to it. It really does make a difference. Thanks for sharing.
    Beth Melzer O’Shea

  3. julia sorkin

    kelly’s bro! writing slightly teary. inspiration to forge ahead no matter what the odds. thank you for your thoughts. we need to clone doctors with your intelligence, humor and compassion.

  4. Justine

    Lovely piece. Thanks.

  5. lois

    Ah yes, the simple things truly do matter
    Thank you, John

  6. Debbie

    The first time you posted this blog, it really moved me because my family had just suffered our second health emergency in less than eight weeks. The message of the book has stayed with me and helped me as we continue to weather our challenges. So, I thank you!

    Hope you and yours are all well.

  7. Ginger Wilson

    Dr. Schumann,

    I also read this very story and was very inspired. Although I try deligently to thank people often for what they do, sometimes a written note would mean so much more to them. So after reading the story of Judge Kralik and your blog one of my hopes for the new year is to be ever appreciative of the things that people do and to thank them for it with a note. Hopefully I can do this every day, because I know in my life I have so much to be grateful for. Thank you for sharing this story.

  8. Jared

    Thanks John. This is just what I needed. Hope things are well

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