Photo Credit: SpiritMama
Margaret Visser has done it again – taken something as ordinary as saying Thank You and found fascinating things to say about it in a new book, discussed on cbc’s Tapestry this morning. Fascinating things like:
1. If someone gives a gift, it’s polite to not immediately reciprocate. Why? It stops wars. Seriously.
Think way back to tribal days. Fight, fight, fight … then one day someone in a tribe, let’s call him Joe, offers a freshly killed deer (or whatever) to someone in the other tribe (let’s call him Jim). Well now. Jim has a dilemma. Why would he go fight deer-giving Joe?
So he holds off and ponders what to do. And as long as he’s pondering, Joe is safe. Eventually, Jim responds by killing a goat, and brings it to Joe. Back atcha. But enough time has elapsed that rather than a pure exchange, Joe now faces the dilemma Jim had faced. Why would he go fight Jim? So he holds off and ponders what to do. And as long as he’s pondering, Jim is safe.
Etc. Etc. Etc.! And thus is war averted.
2. Learning to express Thanks is more complex than we realize. Your two-year-old pretty quickly figures out: Hey, the lady’s waving. That’s my cue to say “bye-bye” and then everyone around me will ooo and ahh. Your three-year-old pretty quickly figures out: If I say “please” I’ll get that ice-cream. But figuring out to say Thanks? That’s more complex. What are the cues? What is the motivation? Finally of course, all decent kids figure out: under circumstance A, if someone gives me something, I should say Thanks, although under circumstance B, it’s perhaps not necessary. And saying Thanks doesn’t provide any immediate reward, it’s just something I do to avoid annoying the giver.
A sign of maturity is when saying Thanks isn’t simply a technical social convention, but something we feel inside ie., gratitude.
3. Gratitude gets us in touch with the transcendant. For once, for blessed once, we are not self-focussed, but focussed on the giver. And this teaches us to be human.
As Martin Buber points out: The truth of being human is gratitude; what is required is appreciation, a sense of awe and wonder. This indeed is the secret … a sense of awe and wonder, even amazement, that springs from our encounter with the world in which we live.
In short, saying Thanks even in the briefest of encounters, acknowledges the deeply comforting truth: We are not alone.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.