A conversation I had with a client this week, a fellow Southerner, really got me thinking: I don’t say (and probably don’t hear) “Thank You” enough. My client, Ginger, is from Baton Rouge, LA, and probably has twenty years on me, I’d guess. I love talking to her. She’s got a no-nonsense style that I have found to be common among people from that area in particular and the deep south in general. She tells it like she sees it, with very little filter. That’s important to me. I want to hear the truth. She has that southern lady thing about her where she could be smiling and saying “Bless her heart” and meaning “She’s a special kind of crazy.” I get it. Where I was raised “You have a nice day” said after a certain kind of conversation is as good as the middle finger at conveying how you feel.
Ginger and I always spend five minutes talking about whatever project she needs my printing expertise on, then twenty or thirty minutes talking about life. That particular day, Ginger was standing at the counter when another customer came in to pick up an order. He busted through the door at ninety miles an hour, nearly knocking her over, his cell phone cradled between his ear and shoulder. He barely looked up at us and continued his phone conversation while I went into the other room to retrieve his job. When I set it on the counter, he shoved his credit card towards me, still not having said a word to me. I took it and completed his transaction, then held the receipt in place so he could sign it one-handed. Ginger opened the door for him and he walked out. “Thank you!” she sort of sang after she shut the door behind him.
With that, we were off, talking about the myriad instances in our recent lives when we performed some act of kindness or service with no acknowledgment whatsoever (and, in one instance, a super rude reaction that still baffles me). It used to be common if you let someone out in traffic, allowed someone with only a few items to skip the line at a grocery store, held a door, carried a heavy load, paid a compliment, did a favor, or extended an invitation, to hear a “Thank You.”
My brother and I were raised in North Carolina in the 1970s and 1980s and my parents taught us to wave at our neighbors, throw up a hand in acknowledgment when someone let us into a line of traffic, and to say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir”, “please” and “thank you” as a matter of routine. I would venture to guess I say a casual “thank you” somewhere upwards of ten times a day or more: to the UPS man when he delivers and the mailman when he picks up, to the customer service representative at the paper company I order from daily, to the person who delivers my lunch to the table or refills my tea, to the client picking up their job or calling to place an order.
After that conversation with Ginger, though, I thought more deeply about the sentiment. When we were talking about the fact that many people seem too busy to be courteous and it seems more common for people to complain than to praise nowadays, it occurred to me that there are all sorts of people in my life that I need to be more vocal about thanking. Since I was at work, that led, first, to my creating a thank you card to mail to my longtime clients at the print shop. With the trying times we have gone through in the last two and a half years, their loyalty has been the main thing keeping the doors open. We are very fortunate to have clients who like us so much that they will sometimes place orders for things they don’t really need yet just to give us something to do! Their word-of-mouth advertising has helped our business make it for thirty-eight years! That deserves more acknowledgment that a casual “Thanks!” when they pick up their jobs, so I intend to start mailing out those heartfelt messages next week.
Later that same day of the conversation with Ginger my friends who are teachers were posting on Facebook, counting down the days until they will be out for the summer. That brought to my mind and my heart the teachers who made such a difference in my life. Through sixteen years of education, from Miss Ramsey, my first grade English teacher, to Anne Clark, my Shakespeare professor at The University of North Carolina-Charlotte, I was blessed with so many special teachers who loved their subjects and knew how to engage me, to teach me. Junior High teacher, Mr. Cox, made American History interesting and sparked a love for biography that lives in me to this day. Mrs. Sara Miller, who was referred to as “Killer Miller” by some students behind her back because she was tough and no-nonsense, was a hero to me. She kept strict control of her classroom and knew her subject matter (History) front to back and knew how to make it interesting and dynamic. I admired her so much for those traits! Mr. Jerry Taylor’s enthusiasm for his subject (Biology) and his students made me love him and want to be in his class every morning at 8:00AM. I’ve never forgotten him telling us on our first day of high school in my first ever high school class that he truly loved his students and, therefore, his door was always open to any of us if we needed him. He was warm, friendly, funny, smart, and engaging. His teaching style and his enthusiasm for his subject were so right for me that I ended up taking Biology I, II, and III. In that last year, there were only four students left to dissect baby pigs, and I was proud to be one of them. Mrs. Dorothy Bratton, Mrs. Diane Maye, and Mrs. Jo Ann Cantrell, my high school English teachers, fueled my love of reading and of writing, expanding my horizons with the Classics of literature and requiring me to journal, the precursor to this blog. They each praised my writing and encouraged me to keep it up. Dr. Hodges, my Creative Writing professor my junior and senior years at UNC-C, saw talent in my writing and encouraged me to never stop. He taught me to “write what I know” and I still follow that practice today. He was a stickler for proper grammar, a trait I share, and I think of him every time someone says “I seen” in my presence.
I’ve always loved to learn. Getting those new books at the start of every school year was exciting to me. Having standout teachers who knew how to supplement the text books, to bring them to life, made me love school and learning new things. It’s too late to tell Mr. Cox (who broke my heart when he took his own life the summer after I was in his class), Mrs. Bratton, Mr. Taylor, and Dr. Hodges, who have all passed, how much they meant to me. To Mrs. Maye and Mrs. Cantrell, who I now consider friends, and who read this blog nearly forty years after I was in their classes, “THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for making a difference in my life, for molding and guiding me in the way that I should go, for fostering my twin loves, reading and writing.” Next time I run into Mrs. Miller around town, I will be sure to say a personal “Thanks!” to her, too.
Speaking of loss, losing an aunt suddenly last month made me more aware that my aunts, uncles, and cousins won’t be here forever and I probably haven’t thanked my extended family enough. They have been such a huge part of my life and I am so blessed to still have seven of the ten brothers and sisters here (ranging in age from 74 to 94). My mother came from a very dysfunctional family, therefore, my Dad’s family, the Cartner’s, were my home, my comfort, my safe place growing up. I never felt more happy or secure than when I was sitting at my Grandma Cartner’s kitchen table surrounded by Dad’s nine brothers and sisters and their spouses and the twenty (yes, twenty) first cousins. The love we all have for each other, even though we get together far less often now than we did in my childhood, has always been a beacon and a source of pride in my life. Thank you aunts, uncles, and cousins for all of the good times, the encouraging words, the mouth-watering food, the laughter, the stories and the love. What I wouldn’t give for one more day with Grandma Cartner and all the rest, gathered around a Christmas tree!
I’ve written in past blogs about the upheaval in my friends group as a young adult, so I won’t rehash those here. However, I’ve never adequately thanked the friends who stood by me through those trying times, and who remain friends today. I am so blessed and grateful to have Jerri Presson Haigler, Jonna Rozzelle Eichorn, and Marianne Reames Goggio as true blue friends for over four decades. I know I could call on Terri Grier Dixon right now and she would be there for me, no matter what. That is priceless! I’m also grateful for Alex and Beth Meadows, our besties for thirty years or so, and their kids and their spouses, who we consider our surrogate children. Our lives are so much better because Megan and Drew (and baby, Meadow) and AJ and Melanie are in it! I don’t say “thank you” and “I love you” to all these friends nearly enough!
My dad, Carl, and I spend time together five days a week at breakfast. I hope that he knows how much that means to me. Before he retired in 2002, we worked together for nearly two decades at our print shop and I am grateful for that time to really get to know each other in a different way than we did when I was growing up. It is rewarding to still hear from his former students who were in his classes over thirty years ago how much they loved and admired my dad. They pass along their thanks through me and I can tell Dad is honored to have been so memorable and so loved. Though I might not say it enough, “Thank you, Dad, for your examples of service and loyalty to your students, friends, neighbors, and family.”
I hope I am never too busy to acknowledge kindnesses, both large and small. I’m grateful that my conversation with Ginger made me think about all that I have to be thankful for in my life. Though I am a natural worry wort and sometimes a pessimist, deep down I know that I am blessed. I thank God each evening in my prayers and ask him to watch over my husband, Darryl, my brother and sister-in-law and their kids, Darryl’s sister and her husband, her daughters and her grandchildren, and all of our family and friends. Every night I ask Him to make us a blessing in the lives of our clients. Tonight I will add Ginger to my prayers and ask God to bless her for opening my eyes more to all that I have to be grateful and thankful for in my life.
Thank you for reading my blog!