Why Don’t People Give Thanks?

I have a very good friend, Sue, who gives and gives to other people.  Yet, so often, her efforts are not recognised by the recipients.  In most cases, all that she requires is a verbal sincere ‘thank you’, or a small personal or thoughtful gift, like a bunch of flowers or a jar of jam or a little help with a task she finds difficult.

Now I must confess that I am not the best at giving thanks myself… I don’t like presents and prefer not to receive presents unless I really want them.  But if I gave a large financial, material or time gift to friends, or a significant engagement, wedding or childbirth or housewarming present, I’d like it to be recognised and acknowledged.  And Sue just gets up after each lack of recognition and gives again – often to the same people!  I see her disappointment but, being so positive, she just carries on giving. So why don’t people give thanks?

Perhaps giving thanks is a generation thing.   Many of her recipients are Gen Y or Gen X people.  They are so used to getting and having everything they want – right now –  that maybe what is ‘significant’ to Sue is not to them.  When you need to have a massage, a spa or a day off work because you are too ‘stressed’, perhaps having someone pay for a holiday or something similar for you is just ‘normal’.  What’s the big deal?

Perhaps Gen X and Y people are too busy now, with their two career jobs and taking their children to new activities every day of the week.  Perhaps Sue’s gift just gets lost in the manic rush of their every day.

Perhaps they are inundated with ‘things’, so Sue’s gift is just one amongst many.  A 1yo birthday party I attended sought ‘no gifts’, but I watched a huge pile of presents accumulate, high enough to start a bonfire.

Perhaps they mean well, but just forget.  In busy lives there’s so much to think about, to remember .  Or it might be that ADHD strikes and Sue’s significant gift is just replaced with the current moment’s focus.

But it’s not just young people who don’t give thanks.  Sue has lent her house to strangers as well as to close friends and received nothing in gratitude.  She goes out of her way to visit needy people, to celebrate birthdays, to recognise special events in friends’ lives and often hears nothing from them.

There’s an elephant in the room…perhaps Sue’s gifts aren’t valued because they are not good gifts.  But homemade produce, flowers, visits and cash are highly valued by most people.  Material gifts can be more tricky, as their enjoyment depends on personal taste and circumstances.  But they should at least be acknowledged, for courtesy, etiquette or just plain good manners.

So next time you receive a gift, remember to give thanks to the giver.  Perhaps err on the side of being a little over-effusive, without appearing insincere.

Memo to self:  take this advice yourself.  Thank you, Sue.

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