I paid my bills this morning. America celebrates on Thursday. Seems a good time to deconstruct.
Why do we even understand the concept of thanks? Thanks aren’t simple, like walking, or sleeping, or say, carpets. Nor original, like joy, or anger, or sorrow. Babies can feel those, noisily. Thanks are the province of grownups.
Why? I suppose because in order to thank, one has to have a parallel knowledge of lack. Think about it. We want our babies to believe the universe benign, abundant, and unconditional, for that’s where trust starts. Babies, in the best of circumstances, should feel entitled to all they receive.
But somewhere before adulthood kicks in, we come to understand we’re operating in a faulty system. That sometimes, despite our inalienable value as living beings, despite all good behavior, things go wrong.
I think now that teaching kids to say “Thank you,” day in, day out, is a way to prepare them not only for graceful abundance but for that sodden rest of life. In the houses of my childhood we heard, often, “And what do you say?” The answer was either, “Please,” or “Thank you.” Surely some of this was to impose heritage cultural formality. But just as surely all the thanking served to remind us we were not entitled to our surrounding privilege.
So while thank yous are the most important part of good manners, (this Thursday you can put your fork wherever you damn well please as long as you thank the cook) the idea seem far deeper to me. Even when one is not a grace-sayer.
I don’t mean to trade on false sentiment. However, try saying thank you for everything, just for five minutes. Thank you for doorknobs, thank you for the rattling noise of furnaces, thank you for sky.
Completely intoxicating. I concede there may be something wrong with my brain wiring, rapture at the finish line from a simple thank you. But thank you all nonetheless. A million times over.