thank you

I tweeted earlier today that I know “what makes the world a better place: saying ‘thank you’ when someone does something nice for you, no matter who that person is.”

As a civil servant, politeness is something I think about multiple times each day. It is easy to think about it in the negative case, but today was different: I was warmed by the number of people who took a moment to thank me for helping them. I also tried to thank other people, and tried to be courteous even when I wasn’t feeling courteous.

There is a trap in judging whether or not a person is “worth” receiving thanks. I used to try to figure out if someone was acting out of sincere caring — and therefore worth my sincere thanks — or if that person was acting purely out of self-interest (what’s in it for me?) or obligation (I’m paid to do this). The truth is that most acts are a mixture, and speculate though I may, I won’t ever know for certain. I would rather assume the best of others than the worst.

When my job is at its most demoralizing, thanking and being thanked makes it worthwhile. This is how I know it is important.

Thank you for reading this and for thinking about it.

3 thoughts on “thank you

  1. And thank you for saying it!

    I’ve found it’s definitely worth assuming the best rather than the worst. Sometimes, wrongly assuming the best will bring out the best in them in future.


  2. Gary Walker

    This calls to mind something Becky frequently does. When she’s had a miserable day of having to report to parents the outrageous crap their kids have tried to get away with she’ll make a point of picking a couple of kids who have been the exact opposite–perfect, brilliant students–the kind that trick you into staying in the teaching racket–and sending a note to their parents to tell them how much their kids do to make every day more worthwhile. It is, arguably, a small thing, but I learned something important from it that informs my own goofy positivism–there may be nothing to the idea of Karma. There may or may not be a future judgement of us for our actions. What there is–what we can see–is a world which is unbalanced, and we have to keep balance and all that it implies–patience, mindfulness, connection–at the center of what we do.

    Now I am, by nature, a cynic (as well as a great abuser of the em-dash). Balance does not come easily or readily for me, but I try to be mindful of it and its implications. Thanking someone is recognizing that they have used some amount of energy and transferred its products to you. It can be rote, but if we look at the etymology of the word we find that it originally meant something like “good thoughts” (thank and think have the same O.E. root). When we thank someone we are, in a fashion, pledging to give that energy back to them in the form of good thoughts.

    Thanks for writing this piece, ‘Sted. Good stuff and well worth the reading and thinking.


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