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thank you

Day 5 – Sundays in Lent are a rest day – apparently. I only actually discovered this about seven years ago. Having been brought up in a very non-traditional tradition it had been left to me as a child to work out when Lent lasted and of course I just added 40 days to Ash Wednesday and that was naturally Palm Sunday. This of course made complete sense to me as Easter week (in my infant head) was a completely different season to Lent. And then it was explained to me that Sundays are a day of celebration, so fasting isn’t appropriate. What?! So you give up chocolate/wine/tvsoaps but can gorge yourself on a sunday?! No still doesn’t seem right to me either. But hey, I’m flexible. ^_^  My first Lenten Sunday this year was one of smiles and where a very gracious lady accepted my having to say no to her. (I find it particularly hard saying no in some circumstances and this was one of them – but to maintain both my sanity and my effectiveness in other areas of serving God, I need to say no to things now and again. Thank you Ruth for understanding – you’re an angel!)

Day 6 – The Thank You day. The day of true gratitude, accepting our obligations and the unsung hero. Thank you is often used as a knee jerk reaction, part of a spoken contract that supposedly signifies “good manners”, but simply devalues the true use of the word and its underlying attitude of honestly being grateful.

We say thank you to the cashier in the cafe who is giving us our change – but that is our money in the first place, it’s not given out of kindness. We wave thank you to the guy who has given way at one of those traffic calming thingies – but he has to give way because the road signs told him to. We say thank you to the insurance adviser who has sorted our claim for us – but it was our money in the first place – they were just applying regulations, as per the job they are paid for. But you know what, just because it is our right, or we deserve, or already own something – a small thank you still goes a long way. Perhaps though, instead of just the instinctual thank you, think for a moment what you are thankful for. And tell the person why you’re thankful for them.

A final thought on thanks – thinking about all the countries in the world I have been and had to learn their word for thank you. And one of the best is the Portugese word – it’s Obrigado. Why is it the best, because it actually sums up the real heart of what Thanks and gratitude are  all about and why perhaps we all find it difficult to say and really mean it. Because the literal translation would be “I’m obligated to you” and that is something we all kick against.  If by saying thanks to someone we are acknowledging our obligation towards them, that on some level humiliates us, makes servants of us. And that is completely what the heart of gratitude and thankfulness is all about. Perhaps if we all focussed a little less on our rights and what we deserve and a little more on our obligations and responsibilities, then our community would be that much the better for it. If we build our communities on ties of obligation, honour and “having each others’ backs” what gracious and others’ centred communities they would be.
My 5 thank you notes (accompanied by chocolate, of course) weren’t on fancy paper, or tidy writing or to anyone high profile, or for anything specific. But they were given with a smile and because I really appreciate everything that my team mates do, our canteen staff do, and our post room staff do. Join me in letting people know you really appreciate them, that they’re part of your community and you want to be obligated to them. Join me in saying thank you. Join me in admitting obligation. And when someone thanks you, accept graciously and with a smile, not false humility. Don’t say “de Nada” (it was nothing), instead you’re welcome (you’re part of my community and I would do it again).

Thanks for reading guys. Come again soon.