Forgive me for occasionally returning to canvass former themes – such as comparing and contrasting the present with the past.
The temptation was there again recently as thoughts turned to what seems to be our inability to express gratitude, but scripture has reminded me that this is no new trend.
Communication is easy these days: simply press a few buttons on a tele-phone or a computer and words of thanks can be delivered for a meal enjoyed or for valuable time spent together, and even if the experience may not have been as pleasant as you may have wished, your voice won’t be heard to give any such indication.
Despite the ready availability of these devices for contact, the custom of reaching out seems to be as restricted as was ever the case.
Offering thanks was a golden rule outlined by my parents and I assumed that the same lessons were being dispensed in other households.
It seems that they weren’t – both in the past and now.
Growing up through the 1950s and early 1960s meant that it was hard to ignore being interested in the United States because television as the modern medium of those days delivered an overload of programs from that country; leading some young people to harbour dreams of one day being lucky enough to visit and possibly become one of the smiling, always well-mannered crew of children starring on The Mickey Mouse Club.
Most shows through those years featured families whose only minor problems were guaranteed to be resolved within the 30 or 60 minutes that the program was on air and they usually lived comfortably in houses surrounded by manicured lawns and well-tended gardens. Except for an occasional villain, they displayed good manners.
Travels took me to the US initially in 1974 and it was difficult to understand why so many people back home were criticising the American custom of saying: “Have a nice day.”
As I saw it, the expression was a positive acknowledgement of customers – even if it often sounded somewhat programmed as a result of intense staff training.
Replying with a simple “thank you” was the usual response and I always offered it, remembering those lessons from my parents.
Saying the words now remains at least as easy as it used to be, yet they are often absent from either side of a retail or business counter, or across a restaurant table.
Worse still, they can be forgotten by people who may have enjoyed a dinner while visiting the home of friends or other contacts who’ve given time and effort to prepare the meal that was enjoyed.
They also can be missing from around the family dinner table where food delivery may be taken for granted, despite someone special working to ensure that meal plates are appropriately filled.
Reminding those around us to do the right thing is a good starting point to assist the development of positive habits and good manners but if gratitude is not being expressed today, then ignorance of it goes back much further than the years of my childhood.
Gospel writings from Luke have told of a rather stark refusal to offer thanks, and the incident he related was one that deserved an expression of gratitude far more than responding to good meals or completing business transactions.
He wrote that 10 men who were suffering leprosy approached Jesus while he was travelling between Samaria and Galilee on his way to Jerusalem.
A Samaritan among them was alone in turning back to offer praise and thanks for being cured.
Jesus said: “’Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you’.” (Luke 17: 18-19)
As is the case with so many of the examples that spring from religious writings, there is an important lesson to be gained from that event yet it’s one that hasn’t been embraced by everyone – even after more than 2000 years.
I should conclude by thanking you for reading these words.