Two words that can change a mood instantly are “thank you.” In fact, growing up in the ‘60s, I learned that by not offering these words after receiving a kind gesture or word from others, others might surmise I lacked a proper upbringing. For my parents, that would have been shameful. As a child, I was clueless.
Today, I notice responding with these two words in conversation or correspondence is becoming infrequent, their use reserved and carefully chosen in limited circumstances. While “Ms. Manners” might agree they are still appropriate, does anyone else consider any of the following actions as deserving a “thank you”: holding the door open for a stranger to enter first, lending an unsolicited helping hand to someone in distress, yielding the right of way for another driver to enter our traffic lane, or offering an unexpected gift or random act of kindness.
Growing up, my parents reminded us of proper manners, insisting we rise from our seats when elders entered the room, acknowledge their presence by greeting them, and politely listening to them until we were excused. In fact, my father liked to remind us, “in the presence of elders, be still and allow them to speak. Those younger can learn by listening more and speaking less.” In so doing, we offered our appreciation for their labors and sacrifices which now were being offered as a benefit to us!
No matter whom we are, our age, or our life’s vocation, responding to a kind word or gift with “thank you” defines who we are and our perspective regarding those who help us. Rather than giving the impression of taking others for granted, we convey simply and clearly that others’ time, assistance, and material aid is a blessing. In fact, my parents taught my brothers and me that to ignore someone’s presence deliberately or fail to acknowledge their gifts could be interpreted as an insult; it could project disrespect and ungratefulness.
St. Paul emphasized how important these two words are when he taught us to thank God first, in Romans 1:8: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because Your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.” In Romans 1:21, he reminds us of the consequences of failing to acknowledge God: “for though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.” In 1 Timothy 4:4, St. Paul instructs us that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving.” Who are we not to give thanks to God and those He uses to bless and enrich our lives?
St. Paul brings thanksgiving into brilliant focus when he testifies to the love and sacrifice our Savior Jesus Christ offered on our behalf: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Himself human, Who gave Himself a ransom for all….” (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
Further, St. Paul witnesses: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer. If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed.” (1 Timothy 4:4-6)
In response, I offer my sincere and heart-felt thanks… Thank You, Lord, for Your gift of our lives, our countless blessings, and the opportunity to serve in Your behalf. Thank you, family and friends, parishioners, neighbors, and strangers for giving us the opportunity to share our lives and depend on Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I thank those who read my reflections and share God’s Good News with your family and friends. Thank you for serving as mentors at your workplaces and role models to other husbands and wives and to your children. Thank you for giving the best of your day to serving the world at large and then when home, not being too tired to spend time to support your spouse and children. Thank you for all who serve others through community assistance and philanthropy. Thanks to all who serve to protect our country and respond to medical emergencies, fires, terrorist acts, and natural disasters. Thanks to our caregivers, to those who work in unpleasant jobs, and those who serve others. Thank you for not complaining about things that cannot be changed, and thank you for taking the initiative to be part of solving problems and resolving conflicts. Thank you for trusting me and reinforcing positive behaviors and practices. Thank you for not gossiping and speaking critically of me and others whose actions may appear threatening; instead you take a moment to share one-on-one and seek mutual understanding and forgiveness. Thank you for not assuming that others are opposed to your views, when in fact, if given the opportunity, they would welcome dialogue and working with you. Thank you for not projecting your fears and judgments on others, and instead asking God’s help to resolve and live in peace and unity. Thank you for not being the judge of the world, and instead, focusing on opportunities to strengthen your spirituality and pray for those you dislike or consider as an enemy. Thank you for not condemning or causing others to hate or denounce our leaders and co-workers, be they secular, civil, or part of God’s Holy Church. Thanks to those who give others the opportunity to defend their positions and offer their suggestions. Thank you to those who cause us to consider new opportunities and clear up our misunderstandings, and in so doing, help us realize we need them more than we otherwise would have known. Thank You, Lord, for giving us the means to transform evil into good, to improve the lives of the homeless and disenfranchised, and help us raise them up and bring them hand-in-hand into Your Kingdom. Thank You, Lord, for not condemning, judging, and criticizing us the way we have, knowing and unknowingly, done to others. Thank you for forgiving us when we realize our errors, sins, shortcomings, and missed opportunities and helping us imitate Your mercy. In spite of our failures, You still love us and share Your grace, mercy, and unconditional love with us. Thank You for helping us to realize that two words can define us; they confirm our appreciation not only to others, but to You, the Source of Life itself. After all, You offered Your life for Your creation; we humbly exclaim to You, thank You for all Your blessings, yesterday, today, and in the future! Glory to God in all things.
In the Epistle Lesson for this Sunday, St. Paul inspires us to define ourselves with these two words in the following manner: “He Who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that He has given you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:10-15)
At our Sunday Lunch, may we lead our family and friends in expressing our collective praise that affirms the source of our thanksgiving: “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Rev. 7:12) And in so doing, let us remember St. Paul’s reminder to thank each other: “But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
- Photos by Fr. George Tsahakis