Those are not my words, that is from an article by Robert Eckert from The Harvard Business Review quoting Mary Kay Ash (the cosmetics entrepreneur) concerning the power of two simple words, – Thank you.
I was skeptical at first, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it was true. For most of us, consciously or unconsciously sex and money are reflections of a larger need – the need to be recognized, valued and loved. People have always known that sex doesn’t necessarily mean love – and money can buy a lot of things, but ultimately it’s just a means to an end. The words, “Thank you,” whether written or spoken have the power to transform. They can move us from indifference to engagement in the time it takes them to reach our ear, or heart.
Thanksgiving is an active and enlivening word. It is something we do but also something we need. The need to be recognized and praised (or valued) is as basic to being human as breathing in and out. However, unlike breathing, which we do on our own and involuntarily, saying “Thank you,” is a choice that catapults us into relationship.
For gratitude to have its effect, there must be a recipient. Someone or something whose presence, contribution, and value we are acknowledging. It requires a level of humility. You can’t authentically thank someone and be self obsessed at the same time. The very fact that it requires outward focus liberates us from our singularity. At the same time, it situates us firmly in a world that is uniquely vulnerable.
As I was looking into this it seemed a little ironic to me that some of the titles surrounding being grateful were lists of the benefits. Somehow it seems like the benefits – while they are real, are not the reason we should say ‘thank you.’ The real reason as far as I can tell is that it is an acknowledgement of what we have actually received. Of our need and connectedness, – the fact that we are utterly dependant on one another in a universe that is incalculable and awesome, and that offers no guarantees against our finite existence.
At the end of the day, life itself is a gift, and must be accounted for in some way.
Maybe the only real accounting we can make – is gratitude.
C. S. Lewis once said something to the effect that, “If we are loved at all it is as much in spite of, rather than because of, who we are.”
Having family and/or friend who tolerate – and even love us, is no small thing. To that my heart says a resounding, “Thank you.”