Monday, January 11, 2010

Good Home Training

Today, January 11, is International Thank You day. In my research of this wonderful day, I came across this great article by Michael de Jong. He consented to allowing me to post it here. One of the points in the article is to teach our children early the importance of sending thank you notes. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

"Thanks to the morning light, thanks to the foaming sea, to the uplands of New Hampshire, to the green-haired forest free." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

When receiving a gift, my bother John sometimes reacts with, "Well...Thanks a lot!" And when he says it in "just that way" you can bet that he's already mentally digging a hole way back behind his house for it to be buried. (He's got a heart of gold, but he can really be that transparent.)

Said with fussy embossed and engraved cards, a two-second email, a bouquet from the corner deli, or even a bottle of re-gifted Chablis -- the thank-you gesture and the words "merci," "gracias," "xie xie," or just plain old "thank you" can go a long way when you really mean it.

When I was about eight years old my mom's sister bought me a box of greeting cards, each with an image of Charlie Brown and Snoopy hugging on top of a doghouse. With mom's encouragement, I then scribbled a few thoughtful words to my aunt on my new stationery, stuck it into the envelope mom had addressed and stamped, sealed it shut with a swipe of my tongue and then ran and tossed into the corner mailbox. Easy lesson learned -- someone gives you a gift, you're happy; acknowledge that gift, they're happy. (Our dear friend, Clarence, calls this "Good home-training.") Our nieces and nephew, Lindsay, Hayley and Matt, are so good at it that often (so it seems) we get a thank-you card even before the arrival of that's good home-training.

I grew up in a home where the importance of "an attitude of gratitude" was stressed. We were taught to bring little gifts when we visited others (as a thank you for their hospitality), to write thank-you notes for everything we received, and, if the giver was in earshot, to say it out loud.

Understanding how to form those two golden words and knowing when to speak them greatly influenced the kind of person that I am today. Sure, just like the next person, I can be irritable, grouchy, unpleasant (and, even at times, a downright "B!+@#"), but I'm never ungrateful.

Therefore, when I'm expecting a "thank-you" and don't receive one in any of it's many potential incarnations, I'm usually thrown off course. I rationalize it as other people being too busy, or just forgetful, but deep down inside, it feels like my social order is out of balance.

Appreciations are those deep-seated, primal reactions, yet some people are either reluctant, too rude, or were just never "home-trained" to openly show theirs. But even the teeny-est of gestures can let others know just how appreciative we are. International Thank You Day (Yes, there is such a holiday!), which was January 11, is a wonderful opportunity to identify and reveal things for which you're grateful, and express them with simple acts of thanks.

Are you overdue in expressing thanks to your family (hmmm, when did I last thank my partner Richard, sister Mags and hubby Jim, brother John and wife Lori? get the idea), pets (in my case, our deaf dog 'Jack,' and four goldfish: Phil, Jill, Bill and Gill), friends, co-workers, neighbors, the mail carrier, or the Universe (God or whatever you like to call him or her)? If so, now's the perfect time to put that "thank you" out there.

Say it and show it again and again and again because practice makes perfect.

And in the event that someone, like my brother, should actually bury a gift? Remember the old adage "God made dirt and dirt don't hurt."

Michael de Jong is the author of a forthcoming series of books on clean, green living, the next of which is Clean Body. Future companion books will cover food, first aid and other topics. Michael's website is




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