The value of “thank you”

“It’s silly to say ‘thank you’, quipped the five-year old to his grandfather who told him to thank an aunt for the birthday present she gave him. I wonder what our children learn today? The word ” thank you” seems  fast becoming obsolete to the extent that when it is said it raises expressions of surprise, amazement, annoyance, puzzlement or unresponsive indifference. People don’t understand its meaning anymore.

Out of habit, I once thanked a food seller in a ‘kopi tiam’ when she brought me my food and got an interesting reaction to my “thank you”. She fell into peals of laughter and kept repeating the word, sparking a chain reaction among her fellow traders. It was to me strange that such persons seemed never to have heard that word from any of the hundreds of customers they must have served for umpteen years!

But, it is common not to hear a squeak of appreciation or expression of gratefulness from many people even for any kind deed or service done for them, whether through obligation or civility.

There’s a saying many would call ‘old-fashioned’ that goes, “Manners maketh man (and woman)”. In the last few centuries, manners were important for social interaction. Being polite made social interaction respectful and pleasant among people. This way of interaction is found in western as well as eastern tradition and culture. “Thank you” is a word existing in all languages and cultures.

I’ve been amazed at how easily this word is forgotten by persons (old and young) of different ethnic cultures and linguistic traditions, particularly in our present Malaysian society.

Have people lost that feeling of appreciation and gratefulness for the things that make life more pleasant, easier or pleasurable for them? Are “thank you” or “please” becoming obsolete words? Why has society fallen into this brash and abrupt habit where even expressing appreciation is something extraordinary or sometimes, even offensive?

When I see children grab-and-run with presents from their elders without even a smile or a squeak of thanks, my first thought is, “Gifts are not your right, they are a kindness done to you.” Some kids even have the gall to rip off the wrapping and say, ” I don’t like this toy…” but the adults keep smiling and some give a weak, “Oh, sorry”. Must one apologize for being kind to a spoiled brat? It would serve the brat right if the present was returned without any alternative given. Well, if you don’t like it, don’t have it, it should go to a more deserving child who will appreciate it.

This generation of middle-class youngsters is too lucky, they have the means to see to more than their basic needs and parents give to appease or simply avoid the pestering harassment, the whining complaints, the cold snub and such negative behavior that they don’t have time for or don’t want to deal with. In this era of wanting to be ‘cool’ and ‘with it’, people seem willing to do anything not to be labelled back-dated or ‘uncool’. Perhaps, being polite and respectful has become ‘uncool’.

When this attitude of self-centered grabbing comes so easily to children who later become grabbing teenagers, it is no surprise that bullying among young people seems on the rise. Hoodlumism among youth results from this avaricious need to dominate. To show others who is BOSS!

Like sexism and racism, it is a craving for power to dominate by instilling fear, to feel free to get anything by force and violence, to feel high at the sound of whimpering, defeated parties. To wreak vengeance on those who wrong and humiliate you. But will it end there?Are we aware of where unbridled, uncontrolled and irrational emotion can lead us?

In this age, kindness, gentleness, mercy and humanity are seen as weaknesses, not strengths? Where has the human race run to? To chaos, annihilation and self-destruction?

 

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Author: jasminetea2

A free lance writer interested in people and ways of living. An adventurer in reality and explorer of fiction. A solitary animal by nature.

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