Some time ago, a newspaper article was entitled, “Simple courtesy facing extinction in America.” The writer told of four different instances in which he had gone out of his way to be helpful, and not one of the persons he had helped even bothered to say “thank you.”
I guess that most of us can recall similar experiences. You held a door open for someone carrying an armload of packages, and he passed through and hurried away without saying a word. You paused to let a driver pull into your lane of traffic, which he promptly did without so much as a nod of the head or a friendly smile.
Such experiences can be disquieting and cause us to wonder what is happening to our society. But we need to remind ourselves that this kind of thing is not new.
You and I have probably been guilty of the same thing, and it may not be too late to do something about it. A late “thank you” accompanied by an apology is better than none at all. Anyone can forget; but we ought not use that as an excuse nor allow it to become a habit. Only an ungrateful person could let that happen. The truth is that genuine gratitude becomes a habit, almost as natural as breathing. For every blessing received, for every favor encountered, it wells up in the heart and overflows in the form of a word spoken, a note written, or a prayer said.
To accept and experience the good things of life without ever remembering or wondering where they came from is ingratitude in its most common form. Little children do that, and with them it is the most natural thing in the world. But they are supposed to grow out of it.
There is a verse in the New Testament which sums the matter up like this: “Every worthwhile gift, every genuine benefit comes from above, descending from the Father.” Life itself, and everything that makes it worth living, is a gift from God.
So, the next time you encounter an ungrateful person, remember: he is not so much to be resented as pitied. Above all else, be certain that you do not join his ranks. There is enough ingratitude around: don’t add to it. Be a part of that magnificent minority that takes the time and makes the effort to say “thank you,” both to God and to other people.