Why Do You Thank People?

This was an interesting writing prompt, but kind of a weird one to a Virginian reared in Virginia traditions. It’s how one is supposed to live, after all.

  • I thank people for opening doors.
  • I thank people for handing me something.
  • I thank my husband for making my coffee in the morning.
  • I thank my co-workers for helping me out with stuff.
  • I thank my students for their participation in class
  • I thank my son for setting the table (or did when he lived at home)

So, that’s a daily part of my life. Is it that I’m so jaded that the thank you doesn’t mean anything? Not in the least. It does mean something. I love the little exchanges of favors and small daily kindnesses. They’re what make life graceful and good. Yes, indeed, I’m thankful for them.

I just think that sometimes there’s some real serious above and beyond going on and “Thank you” while exactly the correct thing to say, seems a bit weird when they’re the same words I use when handed a piece of paper, ya know?

Last weekend, I did a swim. I cut it short from the four miles I’d intended to do to two miles because I had gotten scared and freaked out. (Bad weather, a few other things. You can see my Slow as Christmas blog for the whole story).

During the whole event, I was thankful for the guy who organized it. I was thankful for the swimmer who talked me down from what I can only call a panic attack, and my husband who battled waves and wind and uncertain weather to escort me through the damn fool adventure and keep me safe.

You bet I was thankful to the people that made that swim even possible.

I think part of the reason thankfulness is a good habit is that it does remind you that you’re part of a whole. Sure, sure, your accomplishments are to your credit, but no-one lives in splendid singleness. Everyone who has every accomplished anything at all does it with support from other people.

Even the act of me writing this piece in my quiet living room with only the sound of the aquarium to bubble and soothe my mind through the process, it’s only possible because of the help I got from other people. I can write because of a mother who read to me and taught me the power of words and story. I can write because of the teachers who taught me to read and write. I have this computer because of my father who taught me to program, and friends who encouraged me to explore the possibilities of the Internet, which led me to earn enough money to obtain it. Shoot, the chair I’m sitting in so comfortably was a result of a shared purchase in my household.

Moreover, we’re all like this. The accomplishments of other people that we see are volcanic peaks sticking out over the vast ocean, but underneath, it’s possible and exists at all because we’re mutually supported from the collective magma pushing up through the crust.

From that, the only appropriate emotion is gratitude, I think.

2 Replies to “Why Do You Thank People?”

  1. Great thoughts. I am a strong proponent of being grateful and the ability to express this through words and actions. I’ve taught this to my children (adults now) and grandson. They sometimes need reminders (as we all do). Humility is the key. It’s difficult to maintain an ‘it’s all about me’ attitude and show genuine gratitude at the same time. Whether this trait is a southern thing or a habit from a bye-gone era–gratefulness is always in order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.