Such a simple phrase.
We learned it as children. For many of us, it was something we learned along with “please” early in the development of our vocabulary. It might have come out like “kan kou” (and “peas”) and made our parents and relatives smile, but we learned it.
At least, very, very many of us did.
I wonder now, looking at recent social dynamics, if we unlearn it, or if fewer people learned it than I once imagined. Because it seems to me that I hear it less, and that, when I use it, the reaction seems much stronger.
In the midst of an era when it seems that hostility is the best way to fame, on both social and conventional media, simple expressions of thanks have not been silenced perhaps, but they do seem muted.
There are many things you and I cannot change. The world is in turmoil, between nations with conflicting agendas, national leaders with conflicting egos and radicals in conflict with just about everyone. There are massive threats to the lives and livelihoods of millions that we barely understand or cannot yet even see. Just pick up the paper or read the online news. There’s always a new angle on an old threat, or a danger we never before knew existed.
But we don’t have to live every day as though humanity has entered into a new dark age . . . not, at least, as long as the light of kindness burns in our hearts.
So here’s my Thanksgiving mission:
I’m going to give thanks. And I’m going to take it up a notch.
Of course I’m going to say “thank you” when the service I receive is excellent. But I’m also going to say “thank you” when it’s not. Indeed, I think I’m going to push the point. When the service is poor, I’m going to make sure I have the individual’s attention, then say “thank you.”
And mean it.
Maybe I’m getting bad service because the particular individual doesn’t care and never has cared. But maybe, just maybe, I’m getting bad service because that individual’s under a lot of stress, at home, at work, who knows? Maybe they need a little encouragement, rather than another beating.
There’s an ancient notion that bad conduct produces more bad conduct, that one offense can breed three or four more down the line. I growl at you, you growl at your colleagues, they growl at their spouses, and so on. And each of those subsequent acts, in turn, begets three or four more. It’s a chain reaction with a huge multiplier.
Our instinctive response to bad treatment is to treat others badly. It’s a hard cycle to break.
But there’s also an ancient notion that good conduct produces more good conduct, that one act of kindness breeds, not just three or four more, but perhaps a thousand more. And each of these, in turn, spawns its own uplifting chain.
That we seem so far down might suggest that the good-to-bad ratio has gotten much too small.
So how about a Thanksgiving mission of giving thanks?
Give thanks for an opened door, an ordinary gesture of courtesy, others waiting their turn, service rendered, a seat, a nod . . . anything.
We’ve seen enough of the chains of hatred, of prejudice, of selfish preoccupation. Let’s see what chains of kindness look like.
I’m thinking we’ll want to wear this holiday “bling” every day of the year.
So let me start here, with you.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for your comments, whether of criticism or of praise.
Thank you for caring about where we are going and about how best to get there.
May you have much to give thanks for . . . and may you give thanks for all of it to all, especially those who most need to hear it.