One of the first things conscientious parents teach their children to say is “please” and “thank you.” More than just good manners, these three little words are foundational to a polite society.
When we say please, we transform a command into a request—unless, of course, you’re my third grade teacher. When Mrs. Cavanaugh said, “Please be quiet and take your seats,” it wasn’t a request. It was an order.
Generally speaking, however, please reminds us that we are making a request. When someone honors our request, the proper response is to say, “Thank you.” Mrs. Cavanaugh never said thank you, but my mom taught me to. Under her gentle tutelage, I learned to acknowledge gifts, courtesies, and compliments with gratitude.
As our world becomes more consumer-oriented, genuine expressions of thanks become rarer. I’m as guilty as the next person. I don’t always thank my husband for taking out the trash, replacing the ratty windshield wiper on my car, or working hard to provide for our family. Sometimes I complain about poor service in a store or restaurant, but seldom offer anything more than a cursory, “Thank you,” to my waitress or clerk when I receive good service.
One of my goals during this Thanksgiving month is to go beyond the simple thank you and offer a more intentional, thoughtful response. It could be as simple as sending an email that says, “Thank you so much for your help on this project. I couldn’t have done it without you, and I’m very grateful for your participation.” Or I might say to the cashier at the grocery store, “You have a great smile. It’s so nice to see a happy face at the cash register.” At least once this month I plan to write a letter to a store manager bragging on one of his employees.
I took my idea for a trial run in September. I was preparing for a trip to Japan to visit my daughter, who lives in Yokosuka with her Navy husband. When I asked if there was anything I could bring that she couldn’t get in Japan, she responded with a sigh. “What I miss the most is Chick Fil A nuggets, and there’s no way you could bring them to Japan.” With 20 hours of travel time ahead of me, we agreed that Chick Fil A nuggets were out of the question.
But mothers don’t give up easily. A suggestion from my sister-in-law led to a phone call to Patrick, an employee at a local ice company. “I think five or six pounds of dry ice should get your nuggets safely to Japan,” he said confidently. “Stop by on the way to the airport, and I’ll be glad to package it up for you. It’ll cost you about $12.50.”
Knowing I had to arrive at the airport by eight a.m., I asked what time they opened. Eight o’clock, he said, too late for me to stop by and still make my flight. “I don’t mind meeting you here early,” Patrick said. “I’ll see you at 7.”
You’d better believe I wrote that young man’s boss a letter expressing my thanks and praising his willingness to go far beyond what was expected of him. I hope my letter made them smile as much as those Chick Fil A nuggets made my daughter smile, but I doubt it.
Thanksgiving Day will soon be upon us. We’ll eat too much, watch football, and acknowledge God’s blessings. Why not go a step further? Why not join me in dedicating the rest of the month of November to thanksgiving? I suspect the more we find to be thankful for, the happier our hearts will be. And so will the hearts of those around us.
“He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).