Welcoming hope for 2010: Be thankful

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For all the high-tech things I'm into these days, I'm still fond of the traditional ways of sharing appreciation. Unfortunately, it seems most people have forgotten how to do this. Say "please" when someone's taking your order and it's as if they've never heard the word before. And a simple "Thank you" more often results in a reply of "No problem." No problem?  When did "You're welcome" go out of style?

I can see how that "no prob" reaction might fit if the person to whom you're expressing thanks has just done something especially strenuous or heroic, as in "I didn't hurt myself helping you out, saving your life… happy to do so." But most often a "no problem" reaction comes in everyday situations, such as at a checkout counter. The cashier gives you change and you say "Thank you," then you hear an absent-minded "No problem."

You bet it's no problem. After all, the customer is on this side of the counter. How is it that we have gotten into a habit of thanking the person who's just made the sale to us? Shouldn't we be the ones on the receiving end of their appreciation?  

Maybe this is connected to the overall loss of real service in recent years. We've just gotten used to it. Notice how more many places of business have tip jars everywhere? Tangible kudos are appreciated and expected, so those handy receptacles are there for everyone to see how generous or cheap we are to those serving us. I'm all for tipping, especially when service is exemplary. But at a drive-up window?  Or at a place of business where employees put most of their energy into talking among themselves, as if the customer is a nuisance and an imposition?

Or course even when service is not so hot, I still try to reflect my faith, even if service is awful I'll add a cheery, "God bless you… and have a nice day."

"No problem."

Or occasionally the reply is, "Huh?"


No excuses
OK, we all know it's been a rough year, and it appears the whole nation has been increasingly nervous and stressed, with plenty of good reason. But having much in our minds and on our to-do lists can easily lead to uttering automatic, empty responses in every day activities. It's a problem, however, when this leads to a lack of true appreciation. Doing it consistently, and often, is important.

Recently I flew into Atlanta to speak at a conference. Toward the end of the flight, the captain came on the PA and mentioned a couple of active military people on our flight, thanking them for their service. The response: Nothing. Maybe everyone just thought to themselves, "No problem."  I should have started some applause but I was too shocked … waiting for something, anything. I suppose Americans are so tired after 8-plus years of war that we've become a little numb, so such salutes don't "register" like they used to. I don't think that's a good excuse.

Later at the conference I shared the airline story (to audible gasps from the audience) and explained how I try to say thank you to any and all service members I see. I encouraged the attendees to do the same thing, to be pro-active when it comes to showing appreciation, thanking anyone in uniform for their service to America.

I guess God wanted to help me with a little reality—and a sense of humor and humility—because at lunchtime when I wandered into an adjacent mall, there they were: dozens and dozens of military men and women, in uniform, taking a food court break from another conference nearby. Needless to say I fell short of my goal.

But it did make me think, and vow to strive to do better next time.


Time to reflect
Too often we take so much for granted, get so busy, distracted, and are so into ourselves and our situations that we miss the easiest opportunity to spread some joy with a word or too of encouragement, starting with "thank you." The Thanksgiving and Christmas season is the perfect time to reflect on this.

I began to consider things for which I'm thankful, beginning with the birth of Jesus Christ and the undeserved, life-changing gift He gives to all who will accept it. Then I consider those who are prepared to give their ultimate sacrifice for all we hold dear on this earth, fighting for freedom around the world.

There are also the individuals who make eternal differences in our families and communities… from pastors and Sunday School teachers to group leaders, to mentors and close friends. And I think of those people serving our needs each day who do what they do with zeal and passion, always deserving our appreciation, tip jar or not.

A few other things for which I'm thankful this season: God's provision in times of tight economic times and the blessings of living in America, even with all of our challenges. I'm also grateful for new opportunities each day, and the creative ability that makes each moment a fresh new adventure. 

Yes, 2009 has been a very difficult year, but it's nowhere near as disastrous as many experts predicted and feared. And despite hard times, the Lord still shows us favor and His grace, often in miraculous ways, mostly when we least expect it or deserve it.

That should give us non-stop gratitude and true hope for the future. Isn't it time we started showing it more often, to those around us, everyday and in all situations … not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas?

You're welcome.


Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 7 to 9 a.m. Email: mark@marklarson.com.

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Published, December 2009