A Simple Thank You

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

Margaret Cousins

I just got through reading some tweets on my Twitter home page. This one particular tweet stood out and I cannot stay quiet about it. The tweet itself was a retweet that said that a particular person hated themselves for doing good deeds without getting a thank you in return. I guess I’m getting up on a soapbox about this because that statement bothers me.

I believe that if someone does something nice for you they have the right to receive a thank you in return for their actions. That’s just consideration and appreciation. It’s saying you are grateful for their help/assistance. It’s common courtesy. We should all do it. It’s not hard. Its two words: “thank” and “you”. I bet you are saying it to yourself as you read this. Easy peasey. So, why is it so hard to say it when someone helps you? I come across this often myself. I don’t know why people can’t say those two words but I recognize that some people do find it hard to say.

However, that is not what bothers me about that tweet. What bothers me is that a thank you was expected in the first place. That is completely contradictory to my first sentence in the preceding paragraph but keep on reading. I promise it will at least make some sort of sense. Notice I did not say people have the right to “expect” a thank you. I said they have the right to “receive” one. If you are going to do something for someone out of the goodness of your own heart but you expect something from them in return, even a simple “thank you”, then perhaps you are not doing it for the reason you think. You want something from them. You expect something in return. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like that’s diminishing your good deed a little. Yes, you should receive a thank you but if you expect it then you want to make yourself feel good about what you did. An acknowledgement is wonderful and does make you feel good, too. But expecting one should not be the reason you do something for someone.

In a small way, doing something for someone is a sacrifice. You sacrifice something in order to do something else. Maybe you are sacrificing your time, maybe your dignity, maybe  your pride, to help someone or be nice to someone. A true sacrifice is doing something for someone without expecting or receiving anything in return. The sacrifice itself is your reward. Sometimes a sacrifice is easy. It’s not hard to hold a door open for someone, is it? Sometimes it’s hard. Giving up watching the Superbowl game to go help a friend move because they have to be out of their place quickly is a big sacrifice to some people. It’s the Superbowl, right? Your friend should have planned better and they better reward you in some way. See? Not a true sacrifice. You expect something to pay you back for your time and the game you missed.

If I do something for someone, no matter how small or how big, I don’t expect anything in return. Again, maybe that’s just me. I’m doing it because just being nice to someone makes me feel good. Smiling at someone makes me feel good. Letting someone else have my seat who really needs it makes me feel good. Seeing if I can help the pregnant woman with her groceries because I’ve been there and I know how it feels makes me feel like I was her hero for a few minutes, and it isn’t hard to do. And I expect nothing, not even a thank you, in return. I do it for others because I know how big the return is on my kindness. And when someone does say thank you it makes me feel even better. I know that they recognized my good intention and appreciate it. But that’s not why I do it. If I don’t receive a thank you in return, I don’t hate myself for doing a good deed. It doesn’t diminish my experience or make me feel bad in any way. What does make feel bad is when someone misunderstands my intention, says something mean in return, or if they think I’m being nice because they think I’m being a do-gooder, because I’m trying to “save my soul” as someone once said to me. That’s not why I try to be nice either. I just enjoy being nice to people. It makes me happy.

I will also say this, if someone does do something nice for you, say thank you to them. Show them you appreciate their compassion, their kindness. Most people do expect it when they do something for others. I don’t mean that sarcastically. I mean it as a statement of fact. The truth is the majority of people want an acknowledgement that they did something nice. They need it. And, just maybe, doing one thing nice for someone was the first step in helping them become a better person or to help them out of whatever they are working their way out of. Someone who was mean to you in the past might do something nice for you as a way of giving back something they think they took from you. And maybe they did. Give them an acknowledgement that you appreciate their thoughtfulness. Maybe someone is an alcoholic and they are working on their 12 step program. The thing is, you never know what someone is working through and why they are doing something nice. Be nice in return. Be grateful. Be appreciative. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple “Thank you.”