My parents told me they were the "magic words." But they would often have to remind me, "And what are the magic words again, Ronnie?"
I still need a reminder. "Please." "Thank you."
Actually, "thank you" can be almost magical. Because like valuable collectibles, those words are getting to be pretty rare.
We need a day called Thanksgiving. To remind us we should be thanksliving.
Just watch the reaction when you thank the Walmart checker for working on a weekend or a holiday. Or the custodian for keeping this a nice place to be. Or the housekeeping lady for being the angel who magically makes your hotel room a welcoming place to come back to. Or the teacher for all the time she invests in preparation and shaping young lives.
Don't be surprised if they're surprised. You may be one of the few - or the only - person who stops to say thank you. You've made their day. You've let them know they're not taken for granted. That someone actually notices and values what they do. You've gotten them back in the ring for another round.
Because we're in the Age of Entitlement. "The belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment." Gratitude dies on the altar of entitlement. "I have this coming."
As a Jesus-follower, I'm struck by this Bible description of what following Jesus looks like. "Let your lives be built on Him...and you will overflow with thankfulness" (Colossians 2:6).
Unfortunately, we're more likely to overflow with negativity. Seldom praising the people we live or work with - but faithfully pointing to what's wrong with them. Which they already know all too well.
The Bible bluntly declares, "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Proverbs 18:21). We've all felt the pain of names called, putdowns fired, anger dumped. Things that killed our joy, our confidence, our sense of worth. And then there are those few, but not forgotten, comments that were like wind beneath our wings. Among them, the powerful uplift of "thank you."
Like "thank you" to your son or daughter for strengths you see in their character - their generosity, their smile, their sensitivity to hurting people, their passion. Their sense of humor, their discipline, their ability to organize, their insight, their honesty. They'll flourish with your compliments. They'll wither with your criticism.
With my wife no longer here to thank, I know it's important to ask how long has it been since your spouse heard "Thank you"? For the difference you've made in my life. For the sacrifices, for listening, for loving me enough to tell me things I didn't want to hear. And it means affirming them for positive changes. So much better than a boatload of nagging. As my Karen often said, "Water what you want to grow."
Thanking an employee for their attitude or effort is that kind of "watering." Being appreciative, rather than defensive, when someone shows you a fault or a weakness models humility and teachability.
Wherever there's a "thank you" deficit, Thanksgiving is a good time to catch up. By hug. By phone. By text. By letter.
Of course, Thanksgiving is originally and primarily about thanking the God who is ultimately the Giver of every gift in our life. "Every good and perfect gift comes down from above" (James 1:17).
When you consciously look for "God-sightings" throughout your day, your worst day can still be a good day. You'll bring blessing into the room with you instead of burdens. God's showing up in my day constantly - a beautiful sunrise, an encouraging text, a welcome smile, locating something I can't find, a helpful insight, the accident that didn't happen. One writer said, "The thankful heart is like a magnet, and it goes through life picking up all the beautiful things all day long." I love that!
Surprisingly, ingratitude is at the very heart of a lot of the darkness in our world. In our culture. In my heart. God diagnoses the brokenness in this world this way: "They neither glorified God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:21).
When we rocket through life, marginalizing the One who gave us our life, we start thinking wrong is right and we are God. Failure to sincerely thank God starts us down a road of hurtful choices, dead-end streets and a growing deficit of hope and meaning.
I know there have been times someone gave me a gift or sacrificed to help me, and I failed to acknowledge it. That's how I've made God feel so many times.
Because no one has given me more - beginning with life itself. And no one has sacrificed more for me. One Bible writer says this about it: "Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!" (I Corinthians 9:15).
The gift? "He did not spare even His own Son for us, but gave Him up for us" (Romans 8:32). Because there was no hope of ever knowing God, of being forgiven, of going to heaven without the death penalty for all my junk being paid.
So my Thanksgiving - this week...every day, doesn't begin at a dinner table. It begins at the foot of an old rugged cross.