What do you say...? It was in kindergarten when the world around me started to be characterized as scribbles on a paper called “words.” The fingers on my hand were “numbers” but also “right and left” when my index finger and thumb of my left hand created an L shape. Making bunny ears out of my shoe laces and wrapping them around was now referred to as “tying my shoes.” The act of sitting and using my feet to pedal wheels was “riding a bike.” Don’t get me started on the removal of “training wheels.”
Although the concepts I learned in rudimentary school provided the basic fundamentals of what I continue to learn in high school, it was the lessons I learned at home that mattered most. It was Christmas day, the most joyous day of the year where presents fill up half the living room for my siblings and me. My aunt and uncle came to visit and brought even more gifts. After revealing the coolest presents under the depths of tissue paper, my mom goes, “What do you say?” A unison “thank you” chirps from the mouths of my brother, sister, and me. After every birthday gift from a neighbor or even a compliment from a stranger, Mom always went, “What do you say?” Thank you is what you say.
Three years ago I went on vacation with my lifelong best friend to Universal in Florida. Before hitting the amusement park, we would begin our day with a hearty breakfast from the hotel restaurant. As multiple plates of toast, bacon, and waffles came our way, I said “thank you” each time a new plate hit the table, resulting in me saying the two-word phrase about four times. When the servers left, my friend turned to me and asked why I said thank you so many times. Why did I say thank you so many times? Because you always do.
I pondered her question after leaving the table. Do you have to say thank you to a server since it’s their job to bring you food? Is it necessary to say thank you when a teacher hands you a test that you dread taking? Should the only time you say thank you be after someone compliments you or gives you a gift? Is there a situation where you do not have to say thank you when someone goes out of their way for your benefit?
The truth is: the worst time to say thank you is not saying it at all. The world around us consists of various languages, food habits, customs, and societal standards. Despite this, we are all connected by the respect and gratitude we show one another.
“Thank you” is the most omnipresent phrase across the world that can truly lead to the benefit of one’s happiness, performance, and successes. Its power derives from the sense that it demands the attention of the person who is willing to hear or not. These two words are usually followed by “You’re welcome,” “My pleasure,” “No problem,” or anytime signify an importance beyond just accepting a compliment or expressing gratitude.
Research shows that grateful people are happier and more likely to maintain good relationships with others. Saying thank you acts as verbal closure when someone goes out of their way for the benefit of others. American educator Randy Pausch once said “showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”
Just like Mom would say, thank you is what you always say. This I believe.
Emily Carey is an 11th grader at Wallkill Valley High School in Hamburg.