I just returned from the Breast Cancer Three-Day walk in Chicago. Besides nursing blisters bigger than I had imagined possible, I’m taking away another very important thought from the experience. And that’s the power of gratitude.

Over the course of three days, about 3000 of us walked 60 miles on the blistering streets of Chicago and its suburbs. The walkers were impressive – how many people will voluntarily raise $2000+, pay their own way to the event, and then endure significant discomfort for a cause? One lady even finished the second day of walking in her socks because she couldn’t get her shoes on over her blisters. Personal suffering, loss, and – most importantly – love can motivate us beyond our normal levels.

But even more powerful to me were the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who lined the streets, honked their horns, or volunteered tens of hours to cheer us on. I knew that would happen, but I was particularly surprised by the words most often said to us sweaty, foot-sore walkers.

Thank you.

These thanks were not the automatic, throw-away thanks we so often give and receive in the course of our days. Many people thanked us with tears in their eyes. Others offered us gifts: lollipops, sprays of water, half-melted ice cream sandwiches. The thought counted more than the tokens.

My dad often says, “Gratitude is not a common human fault.” My experience in the world of work bears that out. True, pure gratitude is rare. And it is powerful. It builds relationships, lifts people up, and motivates them to even greater heights.

Who needs your thanks today? It will cost you little and be worth a lot.