This I Believe

Max - Bradenton, Florida
Entered on August 26, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

You Are Welcome

I believe that we all need and want to hear three little words. We need to hear them every day: not only from our family and closest friends, but also from strangers. I think that we need to hear “you are welcome.”

Every day I hear an endless exchange of “thank you.” Even on that paragon of civility, NPR, “You are welcome” rarely rides the airwaves. Except for NPR’s correspondent Juan Williams, journalists or guests seldom use the phrase. Occasionally, I hear someone respond, “It’s been my pleasure,” but that phrase fails to deliver.

Remembering this past week, I have hear the “thank you” exchange sound like a competitive sport. Who said it more quickly, more colorfully, more sincerely? I expected to see John McEnroe nearby announcing, “Serving up the final ‘thank you’ for game, set and match!”

Or I pictured a scene from a politically incorrect but humorous Occidental-Oriental greeting in a 1950s “B” movie. Awkward in execution, nearly lost in translation, the scene is a mismatch of repeatedly extended hands and bowed heads that produces hilarious bewilderment.

You may be thinking,”If I don’t hear ‘you are welcome’ in reply, no big deal. Extra ‘thank you’s sound good to me. Language style and slang change with the times.” Ok, but change shoud be examined rather than blindly accepted.

This particular language change, I think, involves an underlying selfish attitude deep within us. Professionally and personally, our society thrives on receiving, acquiring and collecting. Granted, Americans are notably philanthropic. But I think our society increasingly focuses on personal rights to the detriment of personal responsibility.

Does the exchange of “thank you” reveal attempts to top the other party, or, at least, to manufacture a “win-win” situation? By that rationale, does saying “you are welcome” imply that I have given up more; therefore, I am the loser?

No, by saying “you are welcome”, I recognize my power to give freely for the benefit of the recipient. I believe that when God created human beings in His image He instilled this ability to give. By its nature, giving consciously puts someone else’s needs ahead of my own. By its exercise, giving promotes love. By its measure, giving defines who or what I value most.

“Thank you” acknowledges the ability to receive; “you are welcome” the power to give. I believe that everyone has the capacity to give something of themselves. The gift can be as simple as a smile, as deliberate as a six-figure donation, or as great as life-long love. The responsibility to give rests with the individual alone. When I resolve to love God above all and my neighbor as myself, I change my life by giving.

Language not only indicates but also directs change. I believe that we can couple “you are welcome” with “I love you” to encourage wonderful changes within ourselves and those around us. When you are thanked, and I hope that you are frequently, please reinforce your giving with the satisfaction and joy that comes from replying “you are welcome.”

Are you ready to practice? Get ready and don’t forget to smile. Thank you for listening.