Dee Geurts-Bengtson says thank you – 1,560 times over

For many, there is one designated day of the year to express thankfulness and gratitude – Thanksgiving. The day is stuffed with feelings of goodwill for all – feelings that may not outlast the pumpkin pie.

This is not the case for director of community relations Dee Geurts-Bengtson (Advancement). 

For 10 years, Geurts-Bengtson has made a habit of writing three thank-you letters a week, every week of the year. For those keeping count, that’s a grand total of 1,560 letters in the past decade. 

Though most find writing thank-you notes monotonous, Geurts-Bengtson cherishes it and sees it as central to maintaining a positive outlook on life.

“Thank-you note writing – as much [of] a gift as it must be to others – what a gift it is to the person writing the thank-you also,” says Geurts-Bengtson. “It is a constant reminder that you have a lot of good things going in your life. You’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”

Geurts-Bengtson’s letter-writing habit was inspired by an offhand suggestion from a friend who also wrote three thank-you letters a week. Little did that friend know that Geurts-Bengtson would turn the practice into a lifestyle. 

“I just want to be Jesus’ disciple in any way I can. And if that’s being positive and that’s sharing thank-you letters and that’s telling people how much they mean to me and that I love them and giving hugs, that’s my purpose here.”

Geurts-Bengtson’s path to gratitude was not laid by a life of uninterrupted happiness and joy. Rather, she says, the trying times she faced shaped her philosophy of thankfulness. 

“I haven’t had the easiest of lives. But I know God’s got a greater purpose in everything, and I trust that. For every difficult situation, it’s for your greater [good] and the greater good of others. Even in these circumstances I give thanks to God.”

Thus, Geurts-Bengtson explains, it is necessary to give thanks not only for gifts, advice or thoughtfulness, but also for the negative experiences in life. 

As she – or perhaps because she – takes the time to thank her family, friends, co-workers and God for the light they shine on her life, Geurts-Bengtson remains wholly humble: “I take credit for nothing. All good comes from God.”

The seed for this article was planted five years ago when editor Susan Allen (Office of Communications) received a thank-you note from Geurts-Bengtson for sending her a copy of St. Norbert College Magazine. The card was apt and the sentiments warm, and, in fact, it is still pinned up on the bulletin board in Allen’s office, as you can read in Allen's blog. After publications intern Anna Miller ’15 interviewed Geurts-Bengtson for this piece, Miller also received a note of thanks “for allowing me to open up my heart and soul to you regarding the importance of gratitude in my life.” And Allen received a second card to go with the first. Thank you, Dee!