By Dennis Rainey
During the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of people continue to take various degrees of risk to serve us as we emerge from our homes and apartments to go about acquiring necessities for life.
They need to be thanked.
I need to thank them.
You do, too.
My personal journey toward gratefulness
About 10 years ago God convicted me that I needed to be intentional about expressing appreciation for various people who serve Barbara, our family, and me. Now don’t assume I’m a “thankless” person. In my lifetime I’ve known a few people who were stingy with their compliments and words of appreciation for a job well done. I really don’t think I was that bad. I just wasn’t being intentional with my gratitude and appreciation. Like a lot of folks in the marketplace, I was “on mission” and didn’t take the time to acknowledge people who were faithfully doing their job … to look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for your work.”
I began my “thank you” crusade with an unlikely group of folks. You’ve heard of them. You’ve heard others rag on them, complain and gripe about them. They work in airports. Oh, you don’t recall what an airport is? I understand. I haven’t been in one since mid-January.
This group ought to be flooded with praise. Who are they? TSA officers.
I decided that I would express gratefulness to these officers every time I passed through the TSA screening process … even those who were grump and clearly having a bad day.
I began by thanking the agent who checked my ticket, then every agent I made eye contact with as went through the drill … taking off my shoes, bags being x-rayed, and going through the screening process. I started out saying, “I want to thank you for your work. You help keep my wife and me safe. I’m grateful for you.”
After a few trips I decided to see if I could get a slight smile out of them. So after thanking them I paused for just a moment and added, “I’m sure you get thanked all the time?”
That last part always brings their heads up from looking over the ticket, with one of those “Are you kidding me?” looks.
“No sir, not very often at all. Thanks for your words of appreciation.” Some have gone on to shake their heads and share how rude the traveling public can be. A few of them have offered some of the indignities they’ve had to endure, like disgusting looks, accompanied with demeaning quips and degrading comments.
One officer said, “I’ve been cursed out … a number of times.” Another said, “Cranky people have been just downright mean!”
And one that I couldn’t believe: “I’ve been SPIT ON!”
All of these are responses to people whose job is to help keep us safe. And now in the midst of COVID-19, over 600 TSA employees have caught the virus (as of May 26), nearly all of them screeners. They are at the crook of the funnel for the traveling public.
Does that cause you to have a little compassion for them and appreciation for their work?
It’s a lot easier to gripe than to express appreciation
COVID-19 is the “great reveal.” The pandemic reveals the condition of our hearts. Are we stingy or lavish? Are we gripers and belly-achers, or are we on the lookout for people we can express gratitude to?
The Scriptures are God’s Words that He uses to correct and direct. Since we are God’s children, we likely need a spiritual wheel alignment—a correction—from time to time. The Bible corrects bad attitudes and directs us to grow spiritually.
Do you see correction and direction in the two passages below?
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as it fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
I believe that a kind and grateful spirit that is expressed to others can become habit-forming. God can use it to encourage and remind others that someone cares and that He has a purpose for them despite the ambiguity.
The arrogance of entitlement
I confess it’s very easy to slide into the habit of entitlement and not thank others, to expect a a repairman, a flight attendant, or a grocery store cashier to just do their job. We can be “It’s all about me!” To break that stinkin’ thinkin’ (as Zig Zigler used to say) I decided to enlarge my circle of appreciation from TSA officers to airport restroom attendants.
Not long after my revival of kindness started, I was in the St. Louis airport and visited the restroom. As I washed my hands, I couldn’t help but notice how clean this very busy restroom was. I walked out the door with the restroom attendant pushing his cart behind me. I turned and said, “That restroom was really clean … thank you for having pride in your work and doing a great job. I want you to know that I appreciate you.”
I don’t recall what he said, but standing close by was a woman waiting on her husband to come out. As I started to walk away she stopped me and said, “I just overheard what you said to the attendant, and I want you to know that was a really nice thing to say to him for his work.”
Someone said, “Praise owes its value due to its scarcity.” It confirms that one of the greatest needs for all human beings is to be appreciated. So how about a little summer assignment for you, (and if you’re married and have a family at home) your spouse and perhaps the kiddos? Here are 10 ideas:
1. Begin by picking a group or sector of your world to be intentional saying “thanks” to. For example:
Your dentist—if you’ve ever had a shot to numb the work he/she is going to do on your upper front teeth, you know it’s very difficult to express appreciation!
The person who mows your lawn. (If it’s your wife you need to be sure to make it more than just a simple “Thank you!” Maybe a date for coffee after work? Or a small, but meaningful surprise would be appropriate.)
The garbage man. (If you can afford it, give him a kind word and a $5 tip … which reminds me of the quip by gangster Al Capone, “You can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word alone.” In this case I’m substituting a $5 bill!)
Post office workers in a Post Office
Hotel housekeepers … I’ve never forgotten Duke University’s basketball coach, known as “Coach K”, share the story of growing up in Chicago with a single parent mom who made less than $10,000/year but sacrificed so he could go to college. With great emotion he said, “Be kind to housekeepers, they are likely someone’s mother.”
2. Perhaps it’s you that you need to counsel. If need be, repent of a worldview that has “self” at the center. Arrogant people seldom think of others except to use them or get something from them. Confess it to God and ask Jesus Christ to be at the center of your life and, if married, your marriage, and your family. Then share your confession with at least one person who’s been impacted by your narcissism and ask for forgiveness.
3. Call a friend and tell him or her that you miss seeing them, and you just wanted to say, “Thanks for being my friend.” If you are comfortable with it, set up a lawn chair driveway meeting (with social distancing) to get caught up. It’s much better than Zooming!
4. Ask God for creativity in how you say “thanks.” Here’s an example of how I believe He led me to make my “Thank you’s” more meaningful: When the pandemic first shut down our community and I visited the grocery store I’d say “Thanks” and add “Be safe” to the cashier and bagger. Then I decided that felt like a weak effort to express true concern for their well-being. So now after I look them in the eye and say “Thank you for your work” to them. Then I speak to their physical and spiritual well-being by adding, “May God keep you safe.” That closing statement has almost always brought a number of heartfelt responses: “Thank you for your words.”
5. Thank a person who really needs to be thanked, like a police officer. The next ticket you get, thank the officer. When I did that the last ticket with I received, the officer looked at me so incredulously that I had to explain that I really did appreciate him helping people like me drive safely and stay within the speed limit.
6. Griping and complaining can be such a habit that you may need to bust out of your rut and resolve to thank three people before sunset today. Put your mask on and just do it!
7. Thank your pastor. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to preach via Zoom? Some have been doing it since mid-March. Others have performed funerals and sought to comfort families through via screens, which is even more difficult than preaching to an empty room!
8. Thank your boss or employer. First for your job; especially right now I think we all are very aware that having a job is not an entitlement for all Americans. It’s an opportunity to add value to your company or organization and to do your work heartily, as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). More than likely your employer has his hands full making ends meet. Express your appreciation for making a job available to you.
9. Thank your wife. When was the last time you thanked your wife for being your friend and confidante? For doing the laundry and meal preparation? Keeping your apartment or home reasonably organized and clean? How about appreciation for making love?
10. You didn’t think I’d just exhort the men, did you? Speak well of your husband. In private and public. Find one to three things you can thank him for. Then say it in a way that is meaningful to him … in a letter, a note, anything but an email.
Now I can hear someone say, “How in the world can I do this?” This is one of the reasons the Heavenly Father sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit … to remind us of what we are supposed to do and help us do it. Read John 14:26. Ask the Helper if He will help you. I promise you, He will point out some people who need to be thanked and appreciated.
In the coming weeks, if you step out in faith to express gratefulness to a person and something special happens, write me and tell your story at info @ theraineys.org.