Monday, October 08, 2007

"Thank you!"

"Joshua, can you say, 'Thank you?'" I wonder how many times I said this to my 16 month old grandson on my recent visit to Montreal. His parents and I are all seeking to instill in him good manners and what we hope will be a deeply ingrained and almost automatic response when someone does something for him. Please and thank you. Por favor y gracias. S'il vous plaƮt et merci. Bitte und danke. Prego e grazie. In any language, they are beautiful words. For Joshua, whose mother is from South America and whose father, my son, is moving them to France in January, he needs to learn these words in at least three languages if he is to employ this basic social skill in his many different environments.

We ask our children to use these words even when they don’t feel particularly grateful and have no particular desire to exercise social graces. Why? I think that because the very vocalization of the words can dramatically influence how we are experiencing life around us. Using the words, “thank you,” when someone gives us something, be it a gift or a compliment or the grace of a forgiving heart and spirit means that we really do receive the gift. Saying “Thank you” acknowledges the giver and the gift offered. It also indicates that the receiver is aware that a gift has come and has been actually taken to heart.

Sometimes I wonder if we give less then whole-hearted “thank you’s” because we fear a hidden agenda on the part of the giver. Or because we don’t want to be on the receiving end, sometimes the less-powerful role in interpersonal relationships. Or we don’t want to be in some way obligated to the giver.

Gifts freely given, of course, should not obligate the receiver. In human interaction, however, it does seem that many gifts are given with a lot of strings attached. When those strings are yanked, a lot of emotional pain can roll out.

The Gospel of Luke tells a story about Jesus healing ten lepers, but only one returning to say, “Thank you.” Why only one? Jesus asks that—what happened to the other nine? To be a leper in first century life meant living on the extreme ragged edge of society. It meant being untouched and untouchable. Imagine a life with no hugs, kisses, handshakes, friendly smiles of welcome. Consider what it would be like to be shunned from every gathering, to be continually hungry, begging for your very existence. So healing meant a full re-entrance into community life. It meant welcome and family and corporate worship and celebration and a chance to work and contribute to the larger good.

So why only one? What really happens when we say, “Thank you?” I’d be interested in any ideas you have on the subject.

1 comment:

Angie Hammond said...

Ok Christy, the scientist in me has to answer the question you asked about what happens when we say "Thank You". It just so happens that research has actually been done on this subject and an article was published in the Oct. 2007 issue of Readers Digest about it. In a nut shell the author says that being greatful or thankful and keeping track of it gives us a more positive outlook on life and that often giving thanks to others finds its way back to us in even greater amounts. It's kind of like the movie "Paying It Forward". Of course the writer also said that we can improve our outlook and quality of life just by being thankful to God for the everyday things around us not just the special ones. And a good way to do this was by keeping a journal of things that we are thankful for each day. By doing this we focus on the positive things in our lives instead of the negative ones. And as a result we live happier more fulfilled lives.

So, the question is why did only one of the lepers come back to say thank you to Jesus? Well, it's just my opinion but I think that the one that came back was the one that really wanted to be healed.
The other nine may have said they wanted healing, but when faced with reality they weren't willing to do what they needed to do in order to be healed.
To return and say thank you said that they had accepted what Jesus was offering to them and only one of them acknowledged that a healing had taken place.

I believe that is also the way it is with us. Jesus offers healiing to all of us, but we have to say yes to what he offers us. In other words we say thank you for what he gives to us. He died for the whole world's sins not just a select few. He offers to each of us the gift of healing. And by saying thank you we are showing our acceptance. We, if we choose to, can be like the other nine and go on without ever acknowledging Jesus.

So what do I think happens when we say thank you? Speaking from a personal stand point, it makes me feel good to say thank you to someone. In a tough school setting where it is difficult to show love for students, it shows that I actually noticed the student and who they were and what they had done. It also makes it easier for them to acknowledge what is being done for them. In other words, saying thank you makes it easier to both give and receive. In my case especially the receiving part. Saying thank you just makes it that much easier for me to accept what is offered the next time instead of wondering what strings may be attached.

Nothing makes me happier than to have a student say thank you to me when I've done nothing more for them than I do for all of my students. Yet the simple act of that student thanking me for my effort makes my job that much easier. And it does something even more important than that for both of us.

The simple act of either me or my student saying "Thank You" means that we have a relationship. In the case of the 9 lepers that didn't return to say thank you, I believe that they were saying they didn't want or didn't have a relationship with Jesus. The one that returned was saying yes Lord I want that relationship with you and that is why I'm here.

The whole relationship end of it was revealed to me this week when I attended a Functions of Behavior workshop on Monday. In this workshop saying thank you when a student complied with a request was stressed. The simple act of saying thank you to compliance with the desired behavior was a positive way to reinforce the desired behavior. I don't think I really understood why until we discussed the fact that saying thank you established a relationship between the student and the teacher. For those students seeking the attention it reinforced the desired behavior while giving the attention they were seeking in the first place, and for those seeking escape it said to them I hear what you are saying to me and I want to help. In every instance, the simple act of saying "Thank You" said to the student: you are important to me and I want a relationship with you.

So what happens when we say "Thank You"?
A relationship is established, and we are saying to the other person that they are important to us and that we want a relationship with them.

Interesting note here. Jesus gives thanks to God before he feeds the 5 thousand and then again when he celebrated the last supper with the twelve. In both instances he acknowledges his relationship with the Father in heaven before he feeds the people. And in the case of the last supper, He tells us to do the same in remembrance of Him.

One other observaton on my part. We call the service of Holy Communion: The Great Thanksgiving. How appropriate to call it a thanksgiving, since by celebrating it we are acknowledging Christ's giving of himself for us by his death on the cross. And in remembering what he did by this act, we come into a relationship with him and the Father in heaven which allows healing to occur in us and the world.

"Thank You" Two simple yet powerful words which establish a relationship.

For those of you who haven't written a comment yet but thought about it, I say to you go for it.
Even if it is nothing more than saying thank you to Christy for something she said or did. If she didn't want comments or your thoughts she wouldn't have asked for them. She really wants those of us who read her writings to share our thoughts with her and others even if they are different.

So establish a relationship with Christy and others by saying "Thank You" to her by posting your comments or even just saying: Thanks Christy for all that you do for me.

Thank You Christy for all that you've done for me and for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you and with others.