Jewish World ReviewJune 4, 2004 / 15 Sivan, 5764
The power of 'thank you'
To commemorate Memorial Day this past week, I made a point of including on my Fox News show a number of veterans, actually, quite a few veterans. And not just those fighting in Iraq now, but those who fought in prior wars as well. I had soldiers representing every major conflict, dating back to World War II. As different as they were, it was remarkable how similar they were. All brave. All patriotic. All focused. All grateful.
Some witnessed horrors; others escaped death by seconds, or in the case of one Vietnam veteran's recollection, by sheer luck. But when I pushed each on the subject of how much they thought this country appreciated "them," they were a little less direct.
Speaking as if she were advising, a veteran of the last Persian Gulf War offered only this: "It'd be nice to know people appreciated what we did, what we were trying to do."
It was as if she had opened the floodgates. Not surprisingly, the Vietnam veteran remembered how he had come home, and how Americans had thought him a failure and his war an embarrassing chapter in history. "If only someone had said 'thank you,'" he said.
It got me thinking. How many of us would love to hear those simple words, thank you? Thank you for sacrificing for our country. Thank you for doing a good day's work. Thank you for getting that project done on time and on budget.
"Thank you" has myriad uses, of course, not the least of which is letting the person know he or she matters, his or her work matters, and his or her contributions matter. Because too often in this society we forget to let people know that they help make a difference.
I'm not just talking about soldiers who risk a lot. I'm talking about people who also do a lot. They've done studies on good bosses and good companies, and not surprisingly, the ones who rate highly are the ones who thank their employees often. Believe it or not, it matters more than pay and benefits, more than insurance and creature comforts all those things are nice. But none of them tops just "being nice."
It's amazing when some of those who put it all on the line for this country want only those two words. They don't want parades or big paychecks. They're not in it for the fame or notoriety. Just an acknowledgment from someone anyone that what they did mattered, that what they sacrificed meant something.
I believe the greatest among us are those who recognize the smallest contributions. They see clearly the tiniest dots that make up the big picture. It took some veterans of some pretty big wars to help me see the value of some simple, little things.
I remember some years back working at a company where the immediate manager was a demanding ogre. He barked orders, railed at you if you showed up so much as a few minutes late, and publicly humiliated slackers. You name it, he abused it. He ruled by fear. His method was more to intimidate than inspire.
But he also intimidated his way out of a lot of people. Turnover in his unit was rampant. And the reviews getting back to his boss weren't that good. He was eventually fired, with little fanfare and even less notoriety. I remember to this day as he stormed out the door words I thought were telling at the time: "And not even a 'thank-you' from these bastards."
Lesson learned. Whether you're serving this country or just trying to get by, we could all use a little kindness. It's enough that we live in a society that seems to relish saying "screw you." Would it kill anyone to start with something simpler? Maybe . . . just maybe . . . a "thank-you"?
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Neil Cavuto is managing editor of Business News at FOX News
Channel. He is also the host of "Your World with Neil Cavuto" and "Cavuto on
Business." He's the author of the forthcoming "More Than Money : True Stories of People Who Learned Life's Ultimate Lesson". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Neil Cavuto