Saying thank you is easy, costs nothing, requires no philosophical or emotional angst and quite simply doesn’t happen enough.
As children we were taught to say “please” and “thank you” as a matter of course. These were the basic standards of politeness to be uttered regardless of the levels of appreciation truly felt. They were also considered to be the first (and perhaps only)words learned in any new language in preparation for communication on holidays abroad. Whilst I continue to hear parents here in the UK cajoling their young children into saying “thank you” whenever they are offered something, I have also come to realise that the obsession with the word is not universal, and we can often misinterpret our friends from other cultures where saying “thank you” is not the basic or required expression of appreciation.
Well yesterday, the 40acts team suggested that we focus on being thankful. And so for the majority of the day, I made sure that I took every opportunity possible to say thank you. Inevitably, this was most appreciated when accompanied by some sign that the word came not on its own, but together with some evidence of an underlying thankfulness. I was reminded what good and very different habits both saying thank you and being thankful are.
One of the suggestions for the day was to write letters of thanks to people in responsibility or authority. Now I am someone who has had a grand training and upbringing in writing letters of complaint to those in authority, and I don’t generally have difficulty in finding causes for this. This aspect of the task remained undone therefore, what with being away from home and it being a busy day. In any case, my own children will be the first to tell me that writing “thank you” letters is an outdated form of appreciation and that no-one writes them anymore.
Strangely though, whilst sitting and unwinding at the end of the day with a whiskey in one hand and chocolate in the other, laughing with a group of leaders over tales of letters of complaint they had received over the years, there was a moment when I saw through the funny side to the pain of continual discouragement through such letters of complaint. There were good reasons to be thankful to my new friends, and in this moment I knew to whom my 40Acts thank you letter should be written.