I work at a hospital. In the course of a day, I have lots of conversations with lots of people. Patients, families, coworkers. Your days may be the same.
Many of the conversations with coworkers are simple. “Do you know where coworker X is?” “How’s the afternoon going?” “Where are you going next?”
Some of the conversations with coworkers are a little more complex, a little more serious. “Did you call the coroner already?” “What did the test results show?” “What are the options?”
Regardless of the content, almost every conversation between coworkers ends with “thank you.”
When I was first coming into the organization, I felt a sense of politeness and respect, though I wouldn’t have been able to explain why. Then I started to notice the “thank you.” And then one day somewhere, I read something about a policy that had been created several years ago, a policy that talked about the importance of showing each other respect by saying “thank you.”
(It’s possible that it wasn’t a policy, that it was a suggestion. Given the pervasiveness of the practice, it must have been a pretty powerful suggestion.)
If I had been in the organization at the time, I probably would have laughed. A policy to say “thank you”? A mandate for polite speech? A requirement that no matter how ridiculous the conversation, we must be gracious?
But I wasn’t around back then. I’m here now. I quickly fell into the practice in our culture that we express thanks. I discovered that the simple behavior often was matched by genuine gratitude. I am thankful for the information, for the affirmation, for the clarification. When a coworker cleans up a mess, offers a clear answer to a patient, offers compassion to a grieving family member, I am grateful for the action. And for the means to express that gratitude.
And I have to wonder. What if a culture of routine thankfulness is what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.”
What if we simply spent a month ending conversations with “Thank you”?
Some background for today’s reflection in Giving a Year Meaning: A Healing Journal for Advent 2020. Learn more at 2020Advent.com.