Understanding the power of a simple 'thank you'


Rick Norton
Posted 12/2/18

“No better words than ‘thank you’ have yet been discovered to express the sincere gratitude of one’s heart, when the two words are sincerely spoken.”— Alfred MontapertAmerican authorand …

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Understanding the power of a simple 'thank you'


In this new normal of the newspaper world where the heartwarming “thank you” of yesterday is slowly being displaced by the skepticism of outspoken critics today, you can imagine my delight with a recent phone call.

“I just wanted to say thank you,” the caller said. “I wasn’t expecting that editorial.”

Referring to an opinion piece we published, one in which we tried to reason why an unthinking vandal(s) would paint “VOTE HERE” in big, bold letters on a portable toilet, it was she who first brought it to our attention.

An American soldier who fought to assure the right to vote, her dad was a World War II veteran. Not only was she not amused at the satirical outlook on suffrage, she was offended.

Angrily, she called me to report the vandalism and to ask if we could publish a photograph in the newspaper to show the depths to which some will sink just to satirize that which is sacred.

We not only published the picture on the Opinion page, we printed an editorial to go with it … something akin to “Stupid is, as stupid does,” a maxim given universal appeal by Forrest Gump, a fictional legend from Hollywood cinema.

We did it because we agreed with her approach. The graffiti wasn’t funny. It was insulting.

I don’t know who did it. That’s probably not important. It was the message that got my attention.

Speaking of messages, her “thank you” spoke volumes. In today’s society — at least, the one I’m exposed to in newspaper land — it’s something I hear less and less. Maybe it’s because I’m a “heartless monster,” to quote a term used on me by another caller years ago.

By now, some might be shaking their heads with a pronounced smirk and mumbling, “My, my … you poor dear. Please, let me offer my condolences during your pity party. Here, take my handkerchief and dry your baby blues.”

Actually, they’re hazel.

Another might chime in — in crude fashion, I might add — “Suck it up, buttercup. Be a big boy. Just do your job, and don’t expect a ‘thank you’ every time you turn around.”

Fair enough.

But a “thank you” is still a nice touch, especially when you mean it.

For instance, the lady who called the other day? Her “thank you” was sincere. By nature, she’s a polite person. Though quiet fury can flow in her blood, kindness fills her heart.

Thankfully, other folks are led by a benevolent spirit, as well — a few of whom have called in the past week, mainly in response to last Sunday's column. They still understand the value of those two little words.

I’m thinking of several right now who use them regularly. 

One is an elected government official, a kind fellow who understands the good to the community when local administrators and a newspaper choose to work together for the betterment of all. 

One is a local store manager who’s about as down-to-earth and blue collar as anyone I’ve ever known. When he says “thank you,” it’s not to score a point with the people who buy their ink by the barrel. It’s to acknowledge a nice gesture by the local newspaper that prides itself in being a part of the community.

One is a regular reader of this Sunday column. Talk about sweethearts, this lady of grace might have been our Creator's inspiration when He decided angels would be a good idea. Sometimes she’ll even drop by the office just to say, “Thank you for that column Sunday! You wrote exactly what’s on my mind.”

One is a recent retiree who has been helping others in two different careers for as long as I’ve known him. This guy is retired Army, yet he understands the power of a simple “thank you.”

There are others, several in fact.

But too many — at least, in my opinion — have abandoned such courtesies. This is the group that will criticize without delay when they feel they’ve been wronged. They will rant. They will rave. They will vent. They will throw insults like a major league fastball. But when they witness a “good,” or even when they’re on the receiving end of it, they’re slow to acknowledge, if at all.

The other day I received an anonymous letter. Without a signature, the writer questioned our “journalistic integrity” because we failed to publish a news release. He never bothered to ask if we even received it. I wondered how many stories we have published that he enjoyed, but he never found the need to drop a note of thanks … even an unsigned one.

Obviously, I am concerned about the devolution of today’s society.

I fear as a collective, “We, the People” have grown impatient. Our tongues are sharp and our thoughts are both unkind and impure toward others. Our intolerance is unprecedented for this modern age, and our unwillingness to hear others is off the charts.

Mine is a sobering commentary on mankind, I know … especially during this most spiritually lifting time of the year. We’re coming off the warmth of Thanksgiving and embracing the virtues of a down-home Christmas.

I love both. I will always love both. And I will use each as this prompt: There is innate good in mankind. Sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper to find it in today’s troubled times.

I am reminded of a thought credited to William Arthur Ward, an American writer of inspiration: “God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?”

Today, I have not. And that’s on me.


(About the writer: Rick Norton is an associate editor at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Email him at


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