What do I need to change about the way I say Thank you: 365 Days to Thank You Week 3

Dear Readers (and you are dear to me),

It is nice to know that some of you have chosen to join me on this experiment, endeavor, whatchamacallit, all in the effort to better understand Gratitude and how and why we say Thank You.

I admit the last two weeks have seemed a bit crazy-pants, but there is purpose in the madness.

For those of you playing along, you may have realized that last week was not really about keeping a tally of how many times you said “Thank You” or “I appreciate it”, although that was literally what I asked you to do.

No, last week was about mindfulness. I called it taking your temperature. What keeping a tally forces us to do is pay attention to when and how we say Thank You.

You may remember our first Watermelon week. We learned that if you use a word over and over it can begin to lose its meaning. I don’t know about you, but while taking my Thank you temperature last week, I found myself using the words FIVE times at one drive-thru spot. I guarantee that the fast food service industry has not improved so immensely that it was necessary to slather on the gratitude as I seemed to. But that is when I realize it: I am not always grateful when I say “Thank You”.

That kind of hit me in the pit of my stomach.

If I’m not grateful, why do I say thank you? Is it simply to meet cultural norms? Is it because I feel the need to make my mamma proud? (I really do hope you are proud, though, Mom.)

I think there are a lot of reasons, but here is one I’ve been thinking about for a while: We long for the miracle that is Gratitude.

Think about this for a minute. Gratitude is a tiny miracle that we get to participate in every day. For one small space of time we are not thinking only about ourselves. In true gratitude we are endeavoring to shine a light on the efforts or accomplishments of someone else. But we are selfish in our nature as humans so how does this happen? It is and can only be a grace given to us from our Father in Heaven.

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines Thanksgiving as this:

“A duty of which gratitude is the grace. This obligation of godliness is acknowledged by the universal sentiment of mankind; but as a Christian grace it has some blessed peculiarities. It is gratitude for all the benefits of divine Providence, especially for the general and personal gifts of redemption.”

Basically what all of those fancy words mean (mine and those wiser than me) is that when we are truly grateful and show true gratitude it is not about us, it is from and to God. The only reason we are able to feel gratitude is because of His Grace.

So, here is our assignment for this week:

Keep a tally (or be mindful) of when others say “Thank you” or “I appreciate it” to you.

Sometimes you will see the miracle of the existence of gratitude (and I bet when you recognize it- your breath will be taken away) and sometimes it will just be the words our mothers said we should say. I want you to begin to collect examples of each and hide them in your heart. Begin to decide what needs to change in your own understanding of Gratitude and what that will look like in comparison and contrast to the rest of the world.

We decide which one it will be. Do we let God guide our Thank you’s into beautiful meaningful miracles, or do we try to make it all about us and let them become nothing but words.

Love to you all,

Ronda

Watermelon Complex and Thank You again and again and again: 365 Days to Thank You Week 2

Happy Watermelon Everybody!

I hope you had fun this week with the “watermelon” assignment. I meant it to be a fun introduction, but I promise, I did have a point.

Here are some of my observances of the week:

  • To begin with, I often used the word in its proper context and it evoked an image of a reddish, pinkish, black and green melon.
  • Over a couple of days I began to use it out of context, just to use it more.
  • Repetition began to turn it into just a series of sounds, no longer evoking a particular image.
  • By the end of the week, I was using this series of sounds to stand in for other words.
  • There was also a lot of laughter and the word took on a meaning I did not expect as it began to connect me to the people around me.

I think you might have had some similar experiences and I hope you share them with me.

I have a slight confession to make: I kind of already knew what might happen. There have been a load of people studying this linguistic phenomenon for literally decades. If you would like to follow the rabbit trail about it, here is an interesting article on that history: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2833

The short version (meaning the one that doesn’t take you on a rabbit trail and down a rabbit hole into the wandering rabbit warren that will leave you wondering why you spell the word and “a-n-d”) is that one version of this phenomenon is called Semantic Satiation.

Semantic Satiation is “when a word loses its meaning (temporarily) because of constant repetition, visually or verbally” (https://psych2go.net/semantic-satiation-repeated-words-turn-gibberish/  accessed 12-7-2019).

So, why did I take you on this little vacation to utterly destroy the original meaning of the word watermelon? What does this have to do with Thankfulness or Gratitude?

The study of this phenomenon has focused on the loss of meaning after the repetition of a word several times a second for several minutes (you are welcome to try it…I’ll wait), but I believe that it happens in a much more subtle way when we repeat a word or phrase over and over as a cultural expectation.

“Thank you” or “I appreciate it” has become our cultural “watermelon”.

We have warm fuzzy feelings attached to it and it connects us to others sometimes, but those feelings are vague and the connections fleeting. We have perverted the meaning of the words by over-use and misuse. It’s time to take “Thank you” back.

Over the next two weeks we are going to slowly take our temperature, so to speak, on the “Thank you” front. This week will be personal.

Here is our assignment:

Use your notebook to keep a tally of the number of times you say “Thank you” or “I appreciate it” during each day. It doesn’t have to be exact, just try to keep a count. At the end of the week write one sentence to yourself about what you think you mean most of the time when you say “Thank you”. Remember when you write it that you are not trying to impress anyone with a perfect definition or intention. Like I said before, you are taking a temperature. You are looking seriously at where you are in your own use of gratitude and the words associated with it not where you want to be or where you think I want you to be.

I hope you will join me in this. (Remember perfectionists, no one is grading this assignment)

Ronda