My First Words

Elisabeth - Tempe, Arizona
Entered on March 28, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: respect
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I had been planning to contribute an essay since the series began, but kept waiting for a moment of inspiration, or the perfect way to articulate my beliefs. As the series draws to a close, I was finally faced with the reality that I could not craft the perfect essay, nor could I manage to combine all my beliefs into a single, comprehensible statement. The following is my attempt to convey one of my beliefs, which happened to be the first belief I remember.

I believe in “please” and “thank you”. These were the first words I spoke (as my parents recall) and the importance of these words has remained with me. Not too long ago, I was standing in line to order lunch, and when I approached the counter, I said “May I please have a slice of pizza and a small drink?” When the clerk took my order and I thanked him, he remarked that I was the nicest customer he had seen all day. My first response was to apologize– because if hearing a polite request was the nicest encounter he had had all day, then his day didn’t seem very good. He said it was a good thing, but it reminded me why I believe these words are so important.

It seems that simple things like “please” and “thank you” are victims of hectic lifestyles or attempts at efficiency. I think this is all the more reason to hold on to them. To use “please” and “thank you” is to offer small reminders of equality and value. When you use them, you are showing respect– whether to your boss, your grandmother, or the kid working the drive-through window. You are conveying a sense of equality and empathy. Equality in that everyone deserves to be treated with equal value and care, and empathy in that you have made a request that implies an understanding of the effect you have on others– that they are equally involved in the interaction.

It is so easy to forget “please” and “thank you”, to let these words fade from the ends of our sentences, and to see them as remnants of etiquette and hand-written correspondence. My encounter at lunch reminds me that the opposite is true– taking the time to say “please” and “thank you” means as much now as ever. And on that note, thank you for taking the time to read about one of my beliefs.