1. Engrossed in thought; contemplative.
2. Exhibiting or characterized by careful thought: a thoughtful essay.
3. Having or showing heed for the well-being or happiness of others and a propensity for anticipating their needs or wishes.
--American Heritage Dictionary
It's a word I've heard ever since I was a little girl. My mother used it frequently, always using the third definition and most of the time in a negative sense, chastizing me for not being thoughtful, not anticipating her needs and wishes. It was sometimes used in a positive sense; for example, when I brought her a handful of violets on May Day. But for the most part, I never liked the word because it was used to describe what I was not.
This past summer I read some books by Bill Bryson. The first one was A Walk In The Woods, and I just loved it. It was about his hiking the Appalachian Trail (well, some of the trail) with his oafish friend, Katz. Most of the adjectives for Katz are ones I wouldn't care to have ascribed to me. But time and again, Bryson would use "thoughtfully" as a way to describe Katz's comments and observations.
I came to understand that Bryson was using the second definition. A definition that was brand-new to me. And it is wonderful! Since the summer, I've taken note when people speak or write or blog thoughtfully: Exhibiting or characterized by careful thought. My favorite blogs are those that are written thoughtfully. Ms. Goodneedle and Chez are the absolute antithesis of each other, but each writes thoughtfully. So does Tanya. I like these thoughtful blogs, and I like to hear thoughtful speech. Because it seems to be contagious: I end up reflecting on what has been said, and my own utterances become more thoughtful.