By Sister Nancy Linenkugel, OSF
We have made it to another Thanksgiving holiday time. As usual, the day-after-Thanksgiving officially begins the Christmas shopping season, and with Thanksgiving being so late this year, there are only 3.5 weeks until Christmas. The day-after-Thanksgiving is actually an official holiday in Ohio and in 20 other states. But despite that, does anyone really work on the day-after-Thanksgiving? Isn’t the long weekend too tempting to skip Advent altogether and get going on Christmas decorations, baking, and partying, if that hadn’t already started way back at Hallowe’en?
We all live smack in the middle of this holiday consumerism. Go shopping! OK, we get that. But how do Franciscans look at this differently?
We smile at this quote from Woody Allen: “I’m thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.” Perhaps you gravitate to something more elevating, such as this from Maya Angelou: “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”
As Franciscans, gratitude arises from within. Francis merely had to look around at other people, at animals, and at the earth to be grateful.
Recently I had finished some grocery shopping and, since I only had a few items, was checking out at the “Self Check-Out.”
As I was inserting my affinity card in order to get price savings prior to scanning the grocery items, there was an older woman at the scanner next to me being helped by the roving cashier, i.e. the employee who took care of the six self-checkout locations. The customer was having problems figuring out how to make the self-scanning mechanism work, so the 20’s-ish cashier was patiently assisting.
The lady’s order was finished before I was, so I noticed that she stormed away with her bagged items, apparently not even acknowledging the help she had received. The cashier muttered a sarcastic “You’re welcome.” When I had finished scanning the items, I needed that same cashier to put through a couple of coupons. I think it came to a savings of a whopping $1.20 total, but the cashier came over with a smile. I said “Thank You” as I took my receipt and the cashier smiled and said, “No problem.”
It’s definitely a generational thing, but I have a hard time with hearing, “No problem” in response to a Thank You. Younger folks seem to say, “No problem” routinely. Is that your experience, too?
In the case of the grocery store cashier, I guess her “No problem” meant, “It was no problem for me to scan your coupons because that’s why I’m here.” Since she had already used the “You’re Welcome” phrase sarcastically because the other customer never did say thank you, I can see that the “No problem” phrase has merit. How often have parents said to youngsters, “What do you say to Grandma for her gift?” forcing a dubiously sincere expression of gratitude.
I’m just grateful that we say something in response to a sincere “Thank You.” Perhaps exactly what is said doesn’t matter all that much. Showing gratitude is a social convention in order to maintain a society that is civil and livable. Some hotels train their staff members to say, “Certainly” after a hotel guest says Thank You.
As Francis did, we just look around us and see unending reasons to be thankful. How about this sentiment from 14-year old Anne Frank writing from the Secret Annexe hiding place: “As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?”
We take our cue from the great priestly blessing in the book of Numbers that was a favorite of St. Francis:
“The Lord Bless You and Keep You,
The Lord Let His Face Shine Upon You and Be Gracious to You,
The Lord Look Upon You Kindly and Give You Peace.” Num. 6: 24-26
So on this day-after-Thanksgiving, we Franciscans choose to celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving by being comfortable accepting a kindness, by being cheerful and being happy to assist others, and by being gracious to receive the kindness of another. That’s no problem for us.