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Al Batt: Make saying ‘thank you’ great again for everyone

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt


“Much obliged.”

I said that as I paid a big bill that caused me to clench my teeth.

I said that because the person grabbing my hard-earned money hadn’t mumbled a “thank you.”

My mother told me I could never thank anyone too much. Such an appreciation conveys gratitude. It lets someone know that I’m not taking them for granted.

A lady who was vertically challenged was trying to reach something from the highest shelf in the grocery store. I asked her if I might be of help. She thought I might. I, being a vertically enhanced knight in shining armor, found no problem in grabbing the item she wanted. “Thank you,” she said.

“No need to thank me,” I replied.

“Yes, there is,” she stated firmly.

“You’re welcome,” I said. She was right and I knew it. Thanking someone is a way for someone like me to get out of my head and say something nice to someone else. Gratitude is a skill that takes practice. Emily Post, who put her elbows on a table when no one was watching, wrote, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Thanking someone exhibits good manners and makes others comment, “He was raised right.”

Thanking someone is more than just good manners. It’s good for the person hearing it and for the person saying it. I thank heroes like medical professionals, teachers, food preparers, firefighters and police officers. That makes me happy. Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

I recall the Johnson boys. That’s not their real name. I’ve changed it to protect the guilty. There was a passel of them. I never got an accurate count. They didn’t stand still long enough to facilitate tallying. Their parents kept releasing a sequel before the original had gotten a decent showing. The Johnsons lived about halfway to wherever they needed to be. One of the Johnson boys was a girl. She was the best athlete in the family and was lumped in with her brothers. It should have been the Johnson girl and boys or the Johnson kids, but it wasn’t. Those things didn’t roll off the tongue as easily as saying “the Johnson boys.” She was tough. She had her tonsils removed without once crying. She wasn’t afraid of spiders, snakes or heights, although I think she might have been disturbed by tall spiders and snakes. She made great toast in the oven. Her brothers claimed they ate the toast with jellyfish. They lied about most things while their sister had learned to play fair, share and tell the truth when she was in kindergarten. Other than being female, the one thing that set her apart from the rest of the Johnson boys was that she was polite. She uttered words like please, thank you and you’re welcome. Her brothers were polite only when adults were near. She believed her brothers would go to heaven one day but swore me to secrecy because she wanted it to be a surprise for them.

She taught me that “thank you” are two words that make a nicer world. Like a flap of butterfly wings, they could change the world.

The Johnson boys were part of a group who played workup, a baseball game with rules dependent upon the number of players. One wielded a bat until he made an out. Then he went to right field and with each retired batter, worked his way to centerfield, left, third, short, second, first base, pitcher and catcher before once again becoming the hitter. There were no fabulous prizes, but if a player didn’t make an out, he could bat forever or until he needed to go home. I was doing that until the Johnson girl caught my screaming line drive with a miraculous catch that would have made Willie Mays envious. Or perhaps my memory had turned a pop fly into a blue darter.

“That was a lucky catch,” I grumbled as I grabbed my battered glove and headed to right field.

She said, “Thank you.” Had I said that to her brothers, they’d have scalded me with adjectives brimming with hyphens and threatened to knock my block off. A painful headlock might have been involved, touching me beyond words.

I preferred a thank you.

Thank you for making me a part of your day.

Al Batt’s column appears
every Wednesday.