I’ve become aware recently there’s a phenomenon in our society that I call “thankless thinking”.
A couple of weeks back I’d been browsing through a shop and on impulse, as I was about to leave, I walked to the counter behind which the shop owner was sitting.
“Thank you!”, I said to her. “I’ve enjoyed looking around and love your window display.”
She looked up, apparently startled. There was a pause before she grinned broadly and said, “You know, I’ve had several people wander in today to look around but you’re the first person who has thanked me – for anything!”
We ended up chatting for a short time – passing from the strangeness of folk to the foibles of some customers, then through the story of her grand-daughter’s 21st birthday party to her plans for retirement.
As I left I found myself reflecting on how a simple thank you had led me into a warm conversation and a small piece of someone’s life story.
And I was reminded of an ‘experiment’ I conducted for myself many years ago, when I was travelling to and from school on a bus.
For several days in a row I counted how many people alighted from the bus during the trip – and the number of those who actually thanked the bus driver as they left. Fom memory the thankers were only 20% or so of the whole!
For that shopkeeper, a ‘thank you’ is probably the usual response (with some rare exceptions) when a transaction takes place and a customer actually buys something. And maybe bus drivers are thanked more often by passengers these days – at least I hope so.
But I’ve found myself wondering …
How frequently am I (and others like me) infected with ‘thankless thinking’? When we don’t think to say thank you to someone for simply being present – for being in service to us. Or at least available to serve us in some way, even though we don’t take them up on it.
It’s not always easy to keep ‘looking for the good stuff’ on a day-to-day basis. Some days it’s hard to look at life or at those around us with an appreciative eye, let alone express that appreciation.
But even on a good day we often don’t say thank you to folk.
We don’t even think of it.
I’ve decided I’m going to try to eliminate ‘thankless thinking’ as much as I can from my life.
After all, a simple ‘thank you’ can certainly spread a little sunshine around – not only for other people, like that woman in the shop, but also for me.