On December 14, 2005, the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle carried the story of a female humpback wale that had become entangled in a massive web of crab traps and lines. As she struggled to free herself, she soon had hundreds of yards of line wrapped around her body and tail.

A crab fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (about 30 miles outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a matter of hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that the only way to save the whale was to physically dive in and untangle her. The divers worked for hours dangerously close to the whale and finally freed her. Instead of making a hasty get away at this point, the whale made a surprising move. She swam in what seemed like joyous circles, coming up to each diver , one at a time, and gently nudging them, pushing some playfully around, as if she were thanking her rescuers.

Sometimes we think we do it all on our own. But for every accomplishment, there have been countless hands and hearts supporting us at every turn. The people who have loved, encouraged, helped, and believed in us—maybe even saved us—have been there all along.

There are people who have made your life brighter, your heart lighter. Have you told them how much you appreciate them?

Think of 7 people you want to thank this week:

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