SIMPLY BRETHREN: Is thanks necessary?

By JANET STROUP
Guest Columnist

A quote by Meister Eichart on the church bulletin cover seemed striking to me. “If the only prayer you say in your whole life is Thank You that would suffice.” Hmmm.

With all that is said recently about millenials and their sense of entitlement, and the current ambiance of Thanksgiving season, the quote gave cause to ponder, — is thanks really necessary?

The early stages of childhood, we are told, are for the purposes of socialization and learning self-care. Toilet training is no walk in the park, as is the use of a spoon, but then, neither is socialization. Most parents take seriously the teaching of the value of using, “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry,” although a certain degree of maturity is needed for the latter phrase to be used with a modicum of sincerity.

Some say the wheels of courtesy are oiled by the use of phrases such as the above, but maybe we could profit from exploring the benefits to the givers and takers of the phrase, “Thank you.”

To what are we entitled?

I recall pondering, in early stages of my marriage, to what degree I should give thanks to my husband when he did something, by rights, he should naturally do. I didn’t stop to consider what benefits come from thanking. I felt when one married there were certain entitlements implied.

When a child is born, we tend to assume he or she is entitled to certain benefits, like loving parents, freedom from abuse, adequate food and shelter, nurturing care, and some education. Where all that should begin and end varies among parents, eg. education through high school or through college, etc. Is a child entitled to an allowance, or should he or she get a job for spending money when old enough to do odd jobs? Is a child entitled to receive pay for jobs done around the house, or is that responsibility part of being in a family?

Obviously, parents have different thoughts about their children’s entitlement rights, but giving, giving, giving to our children can have the effect of ingraining in the child’s mind that they have it coming just because they exist. There may be little sense of gratitude instilled in the child. For whatever reason, there are way too many instances of gifts or kindnesses being given with no “thank yous” given in return.

Has anyone besides me held a door for someone, received no thanks, and uttered an audible,”Thank you” myself? For some of us, we are surprised at the lack of thankfulness expressed by those with whom we come in contact.

What are results of thanking?

To the giver of thanks, it would seem that with a sincere “Thank you” there is the acknowledgement that someone was thoughtful enough and/or cared enough to take time and effort to extend kindness. To the giver of thanks there could be the recognition that they were worthy enough for someone to go out of their way to acknowledge their worthiness. To the givers of thanks there’s the acknowledgement that they are not alone in this world, that they need the kindness of others to make life worthwhile. And lastly, to the givers of thanks it shows them that they are persons who can appreciate kindnesses shown them.

What about those who receive thanks? It can let them know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed, and in fact are appreciated. It can let them know that they did the right thing in following through on the thought resulting in the kindness or gift given. It can let them know that their gift was valued. And in some way, they themselves feel valued for extending a kindness.

How does no thanks feel?

A good many folks could answer this. In this electronic age when it takes very little effort to communicate, only a phone and a finger, it seems surprising that giving thanks has become somewhat rare.

Most of us have experienced time and expense expended resulting in a large absence of reciprocation in any form, namely thanks. One may feel devalued, resentful, unappreciated and empty. Maybe we feel the gift wasn’t needed, or maybe we’re not needed in that person’s life. Obviously, no good can come from a lack of gratefulness. But what can be done?

Recently, a friend had her wedding gift forwarded from the store to the wedded couple, and when no acknowledgement was given, she sent a note asking if it had been received. No response to that either. Are we getting too busy, or too entitled, or just ungrateful.

It’s difficult to know what to do to make a difference. But in my little corner of the world, I have decided to give a hearty thanks to a door held open to me, or any out of the way courtesy shown. It’s a small way, but what I can do, to reinforce a kindness shown. Plus, I keep a supply of thank you cards on hand so it’s easy to pluck one out and get a few words of thanks written before I’ve forgotten the kindness shown.

I’m thankful a few folks are reading this today, because I do enjoy writing, and this gives me an excuse.

And thanks to all you thankful folks out there who are making days brighter for those with whom you come in contact, by giving thanks when it’s due. Christmas is coming, so there will be ample opportunity to be thankful then too.

Blessings to you all this Advent Season.

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