You’re Welcome

A long, long, long time ago I learned and somehow internalized the startling revelation that upon my birth, my grandmother had not fallen into my debt.

Shocking, but true. Surprising, but real.

Practically, what this meant was that when my grandmother sent me a birthday gift, she was not chipping away at, never mind fulfilling, a debt incurred and memorialized at exactly the same time each year. Instead, receipt of the gift meant that I had now incurred an obligation and should send a “Thank you” note.

Which I did. Pretty diligently. Though I doubt I can claim a perfect record.

Saying “Thank you” is no longer fashionable. How many times each day do you shoot off an email only to wonder if the recipient received it?

How many requests are made of you and that you oblige with no record of acknowledgment from person who made the request?

Perfect strangers today don’t have an ounce of reticence about asking other perfect strangers to send them, for instance, a copy of the photo just taken. And then neither thanking the photographer (or snap-shootist) nor even acknowledging receipt of the photo that the recipient will now post on every imaginable social media site without crediting the photographer.

Recently, an overseas scholar I do not know wrote to invite me to contribute a chapter to a book she was editing.

It was a very nice, very flattering invitation and seemed genuine as the scholar appeared to have invested some time figuring out who I was, what my research record has been and why I would be an appropriate person to write.

Nonetheless, I Googled her. We do this stuff because we can (the punchline to the joke about the dog) and because we live in the Age of Suspicion.

She checked out. Perfectly. Well-respected, highly published in prestigious scholarly journals, and holding a solid professorial rank at a leading European university.

Long story short, I politely declined the invitation (offering my reasons) and suggested she approach another scholar who I knew had written on the subject she requested I write.

A few days later, an email arrives in my in-box from the scholar I had recommended to the book editor.

It was brief. He said he had received the editor’s referral from me requesting he write a chapter for her book. He said he agreed to write the chapter. And he thanked me for the referral.

Saying “Thanks” really isn’t all that difficult, is it? And saying “Thanks” cannot universally be understood as some act of subservience thereby further oppressing one.

It’s just “Thanks,” for Pete’s sake.

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