In our culture we find it easy enough to say “thank you” to the clerk in the store, the doorman, the postman, the taxi driver, etc. Those are just polite words we say without thought or feeling. But how many in our generation can express open gratitude to their parents by saying, from the heart: “I’m indebted to you; thank you so much, Mommy and Daddy, for everything you’ve done for me.”
There are those who will say, “My parents never gave me anything. They were a destructive influence in my life. I was raised in a dysfunctional family. There is no reason for me to thank them – it would be a farce!”
The fifth commandment, however, does not stipulate that we are to say “thank you” only if we feel our parents are deserving of it. The commandment declares loud and clear: “Honor Your Parents” – period, end of story. We are commanded to honor them for no other reason than they are our mothers and fathers. And that, in and of itself, is sufficient for us to be indebted to them for life.
Our inability to say “thank you” to our parents has affected our relationship with G-d. Every morning we are commanded to commence our day with two easy words, “Modeh Ani,” acknowledging our debt to Hashem for returning our souls to us. Most people do not express those words. They don’t know “Modeh Ani” and surly not the concept behind it. Even among the minority who do begin their day by saying those words, most just mumble the passage without thought or feeling.
And so the days and the years pass and we fall into a rut that conditions us to believe everything’s coming to us. Thank you? Why should we say “thank you”?
If we are to raise a generation that knows how to say “thank you,” we have to start early and teach our children to express gratitude for every favor rendered – even for something so simple as a cookie or a piece of candy.
Life values cannot imparted in a formal classroom. There is no university that specializes in the subject. Such concepts must be taught by parents who exemplify them and have built their homes on the pillars of hakaras hatov.
How different life would be if we could only realize how rich we are with the “small” gifts of life that are really huge. They are gifts that have been bestowed upon us by G-d so that we might walk with meaning and purpose on the road of life, even when that road is bumpy and hard.
We must train ourselves as well as our children to understand that nothing is coming to us and that we need to be grateful for all we have.