The other morning I was sitting at the hairdresser’s letting my color sink in. My iPhone rang. I almost didn’t answer, since one, I did not recognize the number, and two, my iPhone is new and the last thing it needs is a color job. Something made me accept the call anyway, holding the phone a few inches away from my ear.
It was a gentleman – I say this in the full wonderful meaning of the word – calling to thank me for a story I’d just written about him in the local newspaper. I was so surprised I almost fell off the swiveling chair. Do you know how seldom anyone I write about says thank you?
It has been a full year. In that time, I’ve written 14 stories about local churches and synagogues. Of all the ministers and rabbis I interviewed, only one said thank you. (One accused me of misquoting him, but that’s really another story. Okay, I did get a word wrong, but he invented whole paragraphs!)
Before that, maybe two people sent thank you cards and took me to lunch in three years as a way of thanking me for stories. In general, saying thank you has fallen by the old-fashioned wayside. Thank you cards belong to another era. Nowadays when someone, especially a young person, sends a card, it’s considered exceptional.
Why is this? Is there a decline in manners? Are people too busy? I leave it to historians and social analysts to answer. My guess is that there’s always been a mixture of civility and rudeness depending on time and place. Loosening standards of dress and social interaction is not always a bad thing. Working hard and having less time for tea parties and calling cards is not always a bad thing. Two parents working because they love their careers and also need two incomes is not a bad thing either. But do we have to let go of all standards of caring, all time to say a thank you and teach our children to say thank you? I hope not. And hope is out there in cyberspace in the many creative forms of insta-thank yous.
Nowadays there is a lot of emphasis on “expressing gratitude.” Feel grateful for all we have! Take time to thank the universe for every morning and night! Thank our bodies for getting us out of bed and walking us through the day. Thanks for friends, family, dog, cat, parrot, food, yoga, music, new book ….. you get the idea. Even express gratitude for BAD things. They are teaching us something, even if it is just new swear words. I assume death lets us off the hook here, that we can then be eternally grateful, ungrateful or just plain non-existent.
The problem with gratitude is that it only goes so far. It is like a selfie of the soul. It’s silent and yeah, selfish. Thank you universe for acknowledging wonderful me.
Not thank you OUT LOUD to another human being. Thank you for being a good friend. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for being there. Thank you for helping me move. Thank you for keeping your advice to yourself. Thank you for the birthday wishes, the Christmas present, the dinner you cooked.
Thank you for the wonderful story you wrote. I tell you, that made my day. And my week and my month. And it may have to do me for another year.