Please and thank you

Betsy PickleOpinion

For most people in this country, this is a special week. If you’re a Christian, this Saturday is the day set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago. If you follow another faith or none at all, you’re likely to get some benefit such as extra days off or an abundance of food at the office or even the pleasure of looking at houses decorated with colorful lights, if that’s your thing.

I realize that not everyone gets joy from this season, and in fact there are some whose day-to-day existence is made even harder because of the loss or absence of a loved one or the pressure to be cheerful when they’re suffering from depression and/or loneliness. We have families torn apart by political differences and debates over vaccines and mandates (my family is no different). We have many suffering in the wake of natural disasters and human-made violence.

So I have an ask: Please shelve the bickering, if only for a few days, and take in whatever you can find good and send it back into the world. Smile more. Say “thank you” often and with sincerity. Tip servers and delivery people and hairdressers and pet groomers generously. Hold the door for somebody. Let someone else take the last deviled egg.

We’ve become a culture rabid with snark and disdain. Try dialing it back this week, especially on social media. Don’t say the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t pile on. Practice patience and humility – especially humility. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

I know a lot of good people for whom these things come naturally. I’m not preaching to them. I’m targeting myself and others who forget how lucky we are and take our blessings for granted sometimes. Let’s plug in to our better natures and make everyone around us feel special this week.

I was brought up to believe it is better to give than to receive, and even before I became an adult, I found that to be true. From the time I had a regular income (as a “paper girl” for the daily newspaper starting my freshman year in high school), I volunteered to become Santa’s helper, filling the stockings of my family with treats late on Christmas Eve.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t (or don’t) love getting presents. Nothing lifts my heart like a token from someone who “gets me.” I told a friend recently about one of the best gifts I ever received for Christmas. It was a WaterPik teeth cleaner, and it was from my then-boyfriend. Not romantic, you say? Well, it was something I wanted, and he had paid attention. How is that not romantic?

My brothers and I were blessed with generous parents and grandparents. We didn’t get lavish gifts, usually, but we always had plenty of presents to open on Christmas morning. My dad’s mother and sister practically built my Bobbsey Twins collection for me, and my grandmother made most of my Barbie doll clothes. My dad gave me my first little record player and a Monkees album.

One Christmas, I noticed my brothers were wrecking the living room with all the paper they’d ripped off their presents while my spot was virtually pristine. I thought it was odd, but I figured I already had enough, and I should be content with what I had.

As the frenzy died down, my mom disappeared into the kitchen and returned with something that looked very much like a guitar case. As she handed it to me with a smile, my heart was pounding. Inside was the most beautiful acoustic guitar I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe that my parents would get me such an expensive and potentially disruptive gift (my father spent years cringing at the sound of me practicing my violin). But they knew how much I wanted to learn to play guitar, and they made it happen.

The most incredible thing about the present wasn’t even what happened that day. It was months later, when my junior class decided to have a talent show. I wanted to play a Poco song that I was in no way prepared to do. But my musical mom listened to that song a few times and wrote it down on manuscript paper. And then she transcribed it into a key that I knew and could handle.

I played the song – very amateurishly – at the talent show. I hope all who were there have forgotten my performance. But I will never forget the time and trouble my mom went to for me. And now, exactly one month after she passed away, I would like to say “thank you” to my precious mother one last time.

And thank you for reading.

Betsy Pickle is a veteran reporter and editor who occasionally likes to share her opinions with KnoxTNToday readers.

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