Why is it so difficult for many of us to say "thank you?" It's not as if it's such an onerous task, but so many people seem to find it impossible to utter these two little words. And yet these simple words can have an almost magical effect on those to whom they are addressed.
When I'm walking down the street I often run into servicemen who might be with a parent or other loved one. It doesn't matter to me whether they are in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines, my greeting is always the same: "Thank you for serving our nation. Good luck to you." If the serviceman is with his parents or a friend I not only can see the pride on the face of the person I am speaking to, but also on the faces of those with them.
All military service people are true volunteers who have joined the military of their own free will. They do it for many reasons, but there is a common theme of love of country. They're true patriots who should be respected for their willingness to serve others. Without these people's dedication and willingness to serve, many young men and women who are currently making plans for college or starting their careers would be drafted into the military, their dreams postponed. So if for no other reason than that, all of us should be grateful for our volunteer fighting men and women.
After college, my son Randy volunteered to serve in the Marines for eight years, five on active duty and the rest in the reserves while he was earning his master's degree in business administration from Northwestern University and later as an investment banker.
I well remember one day while he was "on float" in the Far East with his unit and called me to say he wanted to become a "capitalist pig." I told him I thought that was a great idea, but I said there would be two things standing in his way. One was that he had to leave active duty and the other was that he would probably be better served if he got his MBA.
Eventually he came back to the States and, after earning his advanced degree, he joined a prestigious investment banking firm in New York. Things were looking up for him, and my wife and I were proud of him. But only a year and a half after he went to New York the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict occurred.
Randy called me and broke the news that he was volunteering to go back into Marine duty. "A lot of my buddies are over there and I want to be with them," he said. My response was not pleasant. I told him I felt his action would interfere with his career path.
I will never forget his response. "Look, Dad, what greater career path is there than serving your nation?" The admiration I had then (and still do) for my son was tremendous, even though that war ended so abruptly that Randy never was called into action.
Our armed forces deserve the gratitude of everyone for their dedication and caring. After all, these people are our sons and daughters and grandchildren. They are husbands, wives, cousins and aunts and uncles, all of them willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Saying a simple thank you to these men and women shouldn't be too much to ask.
But military personnel are hardly the only people deserving of our thanks. Firefighters, police, nurses and physicians are among those who serve us every day, often without any thanks. Without these dedicated individuals our society would literally implode. We saw their contributions, indeed their ultimate sacrifice, in New York and Washington a year and a half ago. We could very well in the future face other terrorist attacks, and you can bet the first responders will be those very same emergency personnel.
But we don't just need them in society's crises-we need them every day. Nurses especially deserve our utmost gratitude for their selfless dedication to caring for others. It is more than a little puzzling to me that those who give us so much are often paid so little.
Teachers also should be singled out for all they do. Without their guidance, dedication and devotion many of us never would have achieved the success that we have. A good teacher can make as big a difference in your life as anyone you will ever meet, but his or her pay is generally low. I have never understood why that is.
We can all make a difference in making up for this situation. A note or letter to a former teacher to say thank you for all they did for you would give that person so much pleasure and a sense of accomplishment. Try it. And try saying thanks to all the others who helped you along the way, be it a teacher, a coach, a friend, a spouse or a parent. Remember each day how blessed you are to have so many individuals to guide, protect and love you.
Yes, you are busy. We all are. But take those few seconds each day to pay a simple tribute to those who make sacrifices for you, even if you don't know their names. A simple "thank you" spoken once a day may be just the thing to do to show your gratitude and respect. If nothing else, the reaction of the person to whom you say it will make your day.
360 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, Ill. 60601-3806
E-mail: [email protected]
Lauer is the author of two books, Reach for the Stars and Soar with the Eagles. For more information, go to www.chucklauer.com