So Why Should I Thank You?

By Michael

Ours was the solitary flag flying on my block yesterday, and I only counted two others as we headed out the various side streets to the main road.

Yesterday was Memorial Day.

I guess everyone else forgot.

In my neighborhood, like 80% of the country, we tend to think of ourselves as Middle Class. In America, everyone between the 10th and 90th percentiles considers themselves in the middle. But we’re in the far edges of the middle, not exactly rich but doing better than most of our fellow citizens.

And so, all us (upper) Middle Classers have huge reasons, every so often, to be grateful for our lives in this country. And every holiday that rolls around, the first thing I do when I head downstairs in the morning is put up the flag. I am hugely grateful for the chance my grandparents received in coming here—an opportunity that prevented our family from disappearing in the ovens of the Third Reich. Grateful for the freedoms that are so much a part of our culture that we don’t even think about how much they mean.

And so I fly the flag on national holidays. When you compare my simple display of gratitude to those who gave the last full measure, or who sweated inside and out as they pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor one summer in Philadelphia, it’s a pretty small gesture.

Small gestures are important, though. Saying please or thank you, holding the door open for the person (male or female, young or old) behind you, returning a phone call….it’s all part of the fabric we create in our relationships with friends and strangers alike.

We indoctrinate our children in the small gestures, cajoling them to say please or thank-you or to call adults Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. and Reverend. But do we do it by rote, so that the words are more syntax than sincerity? Do we ever tell them why we’re saying the magic words and why they’re important?

Sometimes, it’s the small gestures that are the best reflection of our humanity, our gratitude and our recognition that we are connected in some way to all the people we meet, even if we never expect to meet them again. The small gestures make us more welcome, or less so, wherever we go.

The small gesture of flying the flag on a national holiday demonstrates awareness and gratitude for something beyond ourselves, a gift that we are free to take for granted almost every day. The small gesture of saying thank-you is an acknowledgement that we are not entitled to anything from others. Beyond the words and the smiles and the handshakes, deep meaning lurks.

Like most habits we bequeath to our children, we lead by example here. How do we show our gratitude, our respect, our kindness, our honor? And how are our habits reflected in the little mirrors running around the back yard?

Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

Photo credit: robwilkerson on flickr

5 Responses to So Why Should I Thank You?
  1. Sara Joy
    June 1, 2010 | 2:50 pm

    Thank you for the reminder…that the rote matters, but only if we live and explain the sentiment behind the words.
    I can only hope I’ll be such a parent.

  2. Kelly
    June 1, 2010 | 11:58 pm

    I’ve thought about this post all day, Michael. We even talked about it at dinner tonight.

    Teaching our kids why we do these “little things” is a powerful weapon in the war against entitlement. So much of it returns to the lesson of gratitude.

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