Anyone who works in a church knows the importance of saying thank you. Thank you to those who volunteer. Thank you to fellow staff members who hold you up. Thank you to those who give and believe in giving as a spiritual discipline. Thank you for telling me. Thank you for the meal. Thank you for serving. Thank you for the phone call. And of course, thank you Jesus. You get the picture. We say thank you a lot. But for some of us saying thank you isn’t our first nature.
Having grown up in Wisconsin and in a big family the habit of saying thank you was underdeveloped. I am not sure why. Family cultures sometimes pass on habits that make no sense. It might be related to the idea that you should just know, or that the act of giving and recieving bears some modesty and vanity that must be avoided between the giver and receiver and then there’s the whole motivation and secret agenda thing (can you tell I was raised Catholic?). Or it could be a notion that a proper thank you isn’t said, it’s written. In my family the last thing my parents said to us as we left for a friend’s house or a stay at grandmas was, "Be sure to say please and thank you." It was kind of an effort to remember too. I know I didn’t hear my parents say it much to each other. I know my first formal thank you training was at my first job. We spent an hour on when and how to say thank you.
One of the first things I noticed after we moved away from Wisconsin was the amount of times thank you was said around me. It was notable to me. Quite frankly, I think my first thoughts were that the thank yous were illogical and excessive. The act of saying thank you doesn’t necessarily indicate one is actually thankful. People shouldn’t say something they don’t mean. Could it really be that so many people lived in a state of thankfulness? Then I started work in a church office. I had to get over myself, my family and hometown culture.
Basically, church staff say a lot of thank yous on behalf of others, not just ourselves. Most often, we say thank you in Jesus Name. My first supervisor had to bluntly tell me, "just say thank you." The idea imparted was there is time to work through the logistics and ideas later. The act of recieving something from someone who wants to give or do needs to be recognized, and the simple thing, the easy thing, the right thing, is to say thank you.
Saying thank you doesn’t mean you are grateful. Greatfulness is a state of being. Gratefulness can take time. Gratefulness can take space.
We talked about and contemplated making space to be grateful yesterday. I am most grateful for those around me, for the things I have and for the awesomeness of the Lord when I remove myself to somewhere that I can begin to appreciate and be grateful for all that I have. Quiet and prayer is a pathway to an especially grateful heart. Going somewhere, setting apart from the familiar, makes it possible to feel the blessing of the familiar and to enter into a state of gratefulness. Making space to find old and new gratefulness needs to be a part of what we do. I have begun to think about finding a space to do just that.
In the mean time, thank you Lord. I am grateful.