Wednesday, July 23, 2008


A simple phrase is as meaningful and powerful as its context. In the course of a day we find ourselves uttering a stream of pro forma “thank yous" as part of the everyday human experience of social discourse. In the same way, we receive outpourings of thanks from intimates to strangers for deeds originating in automatic gestures of cordiality, holding the elevator door open, to activities that require greater effort, thought even sacrifice-preparing a nice meal for a friend.
Yesterday, I completed teaching a summer course in Jewish Social Philosophy at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University.At the end of the class, I was deluged with thanks. I was deeply moved and felt profoundly grateful for these expressions of acknowledgment. (Of course I could wax cynical by considering this response as a subtle and devious effort to gain my favor and influence their final grade)
I prefer to receive these words of gratitude open-heartedly and with reciprocal gratefulness. Thus a simple “thank You” becomes a priceless gift.
An article in the NY Times of that day gave extraordinary power to my experience of the meaning of ‘thank you.’ A physician working in hospice with dying patients relates the following.
“…I go in to see a patient I haven’t seen before the weekend. She is sleeping…I introduce myself to her son. I decide not to wake her…I am on my way off the unit when her son calls after me: “Can you come back? My mom wants to tell you something.”
I am back at the bedside. I touch her cool hands. “Do you want to tell me something?”
She holds my hand to her face and pulls me close.” I wanted to thank you for this. Thank you.”
There it is again-another moment, another near miss. I was rushing to get the day started. I would not have awakened her. I would have missed the chance to feel “wow.” It is a very big deal. …”

Pause to say thank you. Pause to hear it, as well.

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