It’s nearly Thanksgiving again, with folks looking forward to being with family and friends they don’t get
to see often enough.
Thanksgiving’s also an opportunity to acknowledge our blessings. We learned in school that’s how the holiday began, but often the giver of those blessings isn’t recognized.
An interesting aspect of language is that it mirrors the culture of the people who speak it. I’ve been noticing lately that when I say, “thank you,” I don’t often hear, “you’re welcome.” Sometimes the response is, “no problem,” “sure,” “you bet,” “don’t mention it,” or even just, “yup.”
Having expressed appreciation for a kindness, it’s jarring to me to hear, “yup.” Though relating personally to others doesn’t always take much time, I believe it’s important. Hence, “yup,” seems — at best — simply to mean, “I heard your ‘thank you.’”
“No problem” also seems odd, implying some difficulty had been expected by the recipient of the kindness, which wouldn’t have been rendered had the other person thought so, too.
But when I hear, “you’re welcome,” I take it as more than merely a standard response. Someone is saying I’m welcome to the kindness he or she has shown me. That touches me.
As an aside, I believe deeper issues also are behind some other almost automatic responses. To wit: When Johnny hits his friend and is told to apologize, the seemingly acceptable response from Johnny is, “sorry.” But I would argue that’s not enough, that Johnny’s doing merely what’s required and is acknowledging neither fault nor regret. It makes me want to look Johnny in the eye and ask, “Who’s sorry?” And I want to hear him say — and mean — “I’m sorry.”
Thanksgiving is a day we supposedly mark to express appreciation for our blessings (abundant even in the recent times of economic turmoil).
I’ve heard it’s healthy to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. I believe that but only when it means much more than simply being happy about what we have. “Happy” is related to the old-time word, “hap,” meaning something has come by chance, luck, fortune or accident — happenstance. We’re unlikely to be grateful to someone for a bit of “luck.”
Some of Thanksgiving’s roots reach back to 1621. The Mayflower’s surviving Pilgrims (nearly half the original 102 died the winter after they arrived) celebrated a successful harvest, joined by their Indian friends. The Pilgrims firmly believed in the God of the Bible and were committed to following their commitment to him even to the end of the world … or to a “New World.”
They weren’t confused about the origin of blessings: “Our corn (wheat) did prove well, and God be praised,” Edward Winslow wrote that December. And “by the goodness of God we are so far from want …”
George Washington also knew whom to credit for good. He proclaimed Nov. 26, 1789, to be “devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln also issued a presidential proclamation. “The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies,” it noted. “To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
Lincoln’s proclamation invited Americans to observe the “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” A congressional resolution in 1941 decreed every fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.
Today, the holiday should still be way more than just “turkey day,” football or a day off work. Though some might not consider it “politically correct,” Thanksgiving is an opportunity to recognize that the God of our nation’s fathers is still in the business of blessing people — and to thank him for it.
And were he to respond audibly, I doubt we would hear, “yup” or “no problem.”
Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin is a retired reporter, who still contributes to The Vidette. Contact her by emailing the editor at email@example.com