I’m writing this column with the TV on in the other room. Sitting at my desk, I can hear updates on the search for Bomber Suspect #2. And so I’m writing this with a steady stream of horror as background noise. There’s already been much said and much written that I don’t think it seemly for me to add what amounts to my two cents. And yet, I struggle with how I can put this column into some kind of context for this past week.
The clichés come rushing out — life is unpredictable; life is short; Carpe Diem. They’re clichés because they’re true, but because they’re clichés, even in the face of numbing images, they lack a rattling call to action.
The novelist Reynolds Price, had one of his characters, Roxanna Slade, reflect on how “very few human beings of any sex or background are called to anything grander than dinner.” I think this is true, although those who with generous instincts helped and rescued the injured are those few called to a more heroic moment of being human.
But still the question remains for the rest of us — how do we, you and me, mark the ordinary routine of our lives with integrity and grace? Well, here’s my one, small but not insignificant suggestion — that we, you and me, say “thank you” to as many people as possible each and every day. By looking people in the eye and thanking them for their help, their ideas, their efforts, and, yes, even for doing what they’re paid to do but because they do it so well and so seemingly effortlessly.
Years ago I lived in a part of the Pacific known as Micronesia. Yap is one of the island nations in that region. My favorite Yapese word is “hosachigachig.” It literally means, “You are tired” and it’s the Yapese word for “thank you.” I love the simple directness of the word because, if you think about it, when you say “thank you” to someone, you’re acknowledging that they’ve exerted themselves in some way or manner for you.
It’s been said by “experts” in the fields of criminology and psychology, that when you strip away political and religious motivations from those who execute heinous criminal deeds, you are looking at individuals who are consumed with a raging demand to be recognized.
You can argue with the “experts” but what is true is that each of us yearns to be seen and recognized.
In the face of the horror of so many violent demands to be recognized, what is more human than to set about recognizing the people in our lives with habitual “thank yous”?
How many people have you thanked today?
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