Thoughts & Teachings

Judy Meltzer

I guess I’ve never given much thought to a couple of words that really do deserve more attention.  “Thank you.” What does it mean to say “Thank you?” 

Our parents taught us, and we teach our children and grandchildren to say “thank you” -when you receive a gift, when someone gives you a compliment, or helps you out in some way, or just for doing something nice.  It’s the refined, polite thing to do, and most of us do it frequently. How many times do we utter these two words during the day? Fifty? One Hundred? Two Hundred? 

Rabbi Shulman told me recently that it’s never wrong to say “thank you.” You cannot say it too often, he said.  I agree.  But today I had occasion to think about these words, about what we mean when we say them, and what they mean to the recipient.

Our wonderful Gemilut Hasadim initiative at Chizuk Amuno participates in a project called “Operation Welcome Home.”  Volunteers gather at BWI to greet returning military personnel as they touch ground in the U.S. for the first time in far too long.  They are so young; some of them appear to be barely out of high school.  As they began to emerge from the gate into the airport, we greeted them with cheers and applause, and one man enthusiastically waved a large American flag.

As we shook their hands, we said, “Welcome home!” and then – “Thank you.”  How do you thank someone who has put his/her life on the line, has been separated from loved ones, or has sacrificed a limb or mental health so that we can continue to live in peace?  When you thank these young people, it is not a perfunctory utterance; it is a heartfelt expression of gratitude and appreciation.  But when they thanked us – that was overwhelming.  You can be sure there were no dry eyes among the greeters. 

I will never say “Thank you” again without recalling this occasion.