This is Richard. I met him on my way to work this morning. He was staying warm on a bright but rather chilly Chicago morning by camping out directly above a Chicago subway stop. Richard and I chatted briefly. He told me about the spaceship he’s building. It’s gold. But it changes color in different environments. And it’s really fast. He said he’s been working on it for a while now. After a bit, we said our goodbyes and I re-joined the flow of well-groomed businesspeople on the way to our respective careers.
And the whole way I thought about this coming week, my trip back home and the meaning of these two words: “thank you”.
We're taught early on in our lives to say “thank you”. Some feel we still don't say it enough. But I hear it all the time—as a customer, "thank you for choosing Southwest", as an employee, "thank you for entering your time this week", in the grocery store "thank you, have a nice day—please come again".
Everywhere you turn, people are saying "thank you". But are we really? Think about the most difficult time in your life and how you felt about it. "No thank you" probably covers some of the emotions we feel during difficult times. Who wants to go through something unpleasant? I don't. If I had it my way, we would all be perfect, never get sick, never die, and there wouldn't be a reason to fight over anything. But that's not life as we know it.
"No thank you".
If I had a choice, that's what I would say if presented with an unpleasant option. But we don't always have a choice. So I’m thinking about the words “thank you”. Not the cordial definition, but the one when you say it when you don't have a reason to. This week, some of us will be fortunate enough to sit around tables with family or friends, or both. We'll say things like, please pass the potatoes—thank you.
But some of us will be alone.
I'm thinking about the words "thank you" this week. Thinking about it in NY, with my extended family. Thinking about it when I look at my sons. Thinking about it when we fly over millions of homes, broken homes and places that serve as homes but shouldn’t. Thinking about it while remembering more difficult personal times—all the times I wish I said “thank you” when in reality I said “no thanks”.
We say it often— even when we really don't mean it. But how often do we think about what being thankful actually means? Thank you Richard—for the reminder.