Monday, November 12, 2012

Hey, Thanks...

Saying "Thank you" is a natural response to some action that another person does.  It should be automatic, happening when a waiter pours a glass of tea for you or when someone opens a door for you.  When I went to Russia with a mission group back in 1997, we stayed at and worked at an orphanage.  The people there were very friendly and despite the lack of language skills we seemed to communicate what we needed.  Each morning we would be up early since the sun seemingly does not set much in the summer in that part of the world.  We Texans would be in need of coffee so we would walk over to the little dining area and begin to look around hoping that someone would notice us and offer us coffee.  The signal must have worked because a wonderful lady would give us instant coffee and hot water and we would have coffee.  We would sit down and she would bring the things around so we could make the coffee ourselves in our cups.  We had learned how to say "Thank You" in Russian---Spaseeba--so we would say that to the lady when she provided what we needed for our coffee fix.  In return, she would say, "Prezhalta" which (we assumed) meant, "You are welcome".  This happened each day we were there, early in the morning the sleepy eyed woman would help us and we would exchange our greetings.  The last morning of our visit when we went for coffee and said "Thank you" in Russian, she returned our greeting but this time there was a definite sleepy sound in her voice, as if she could barely speak her "Prezhalta" to us.  I think our early rising had gotten to her.  Russians seem to like to sleep in, I think, and we Americans were up way to early for her, we assumed.

Saying Thank You in any language is a great tool to have.  I have learned that if you can say the basic greetings in the language of the country where you are guests, then the people there will be pleased and think that you really do want to try to fit in.  Saying Thank You implies that you appreciate whatever anyone has done for you.  Many times when I make a purchase in a store, the clerk will not say "Thank you" to me after I have given her/him my money.  They just move on to the next customer.  I often just stand there and then say, "You are welcome" before moving on.  It seems that some clerks have not been properly trained in common customer courtesy.  Saying "Thank you" when someone has given you money seems as if it should be natural but perhaps not everyone has been given training in doing this.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that allows us the time to reflect upon our lives and think about the things for which we are thankful.  I object to people calling the holiday "Turkey Day" because it was never intended to be simply a day to eat turkey and watch sports on television.  The holiday was created to give people time to think about their lives and to offer thanks in whatever way they chose as they gathered with family and friends.  Yes, we do have a feast when we celebrate the day but the turkey is not the reason why we gather. It may be the main course but the main event of the day should be saying thanks to our Creator for providing the elements that make the feast possible.  It is also a day to count one's blessings and to say thanks to God for those people who bless our lives.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that is uniquely American.  Yes, our Canadian friends also have a Thanksgiving which they celebrate in October, but its meaning is not quite the same as ours.  They give thanks as we do for all the blessings of life but their day is not tied to a specific historical event that reminds them of reasons to be thankful.  The American Thanksgiving conjures up images of Pilgrim hats and Native Americans with feathers sticking out of their hair and a table laden with food so plentiful that the table cannot hold it all.  Most of our Thanksgiving tables are like that, loaded down with so much food that some of it cannot be on the table.  Those food items are symbols of the blessings we have received.  We have been given the physical health and strength to do the work to earn the money so that we can buy the products to make the dishes we eat.  Someone else processed or grew the food and a grocer or stand sold it to us.  We sit at a table that someone else made and eat off of dishes that were provided by someone in a part of the world that may be far away.  Our entire meal is a global gathering of people and places and things from far and wide.

This year, give thanks for the good world that God has given us.  God called it good when it was created and it remains to be so.  Humans have to play a part in making it to remain good but the raw products that are on the earth are good.  We need to be good stewards of those products and use them carefully.  We give thanks for all of God's mercies and pray that God will unite all of humankind as one family in peace and love.

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