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Sunday, August 16, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Our company left.

My wife sat across the dining table from me. I looked at her and said, “Thank you. That was a most delicious meal.”

We both laughed. Why the laugh?

Because somebody had to say it: “Thank you.”

Our company had eaten heartily but never once gave any indication that they were thankful for the meal or the work that went into its delivery.

There was a gracious place setting for each. There were candles lit. There were the garnishes as well as the main course. There were the cloth napkins. There was also the background music still playing.

But not even a hint of “Thank you” from our dinner guests.

How can this happen? It’s beyond me. I don’t get it.

When Ollie and Elsie served the most delicious cuisine in their New York home, I can still remember spying their guests arriving from King’s College.

Friends walked through their front door with tidy gifts in hand. It was always a kind gesture to arrive with some present, not expensive, just thoughtful.

There was such a genuine friendship feeling in the air. Smiles. Greetings. Sometimes an embrace. Pleasant exchanges all. Forget the crabby selfish world outside; we were safe while
at Ollie and Elsie’s.

Throughout the meal there were sincere gestures of appreciation extended to host and hostess. Those expressions were as bright bows tying up heartfelt words offered to the two presenting their welcoming table.

Has all that been lost in the hurry and self-centeredness of our times? Could be.

But my memories are intact. I will sometimes just sit on an evening, watching the sun go down over Lake Sebago, to think back to Ollie and Elsie’s lovely home. What made it lovely was not just their relaxing furnishings but the thoughtful people who knew them best.

When the evenings closed out with farewells, everyone there could look back over an enriching exchange. It never failed. Ollie and Elsie obviously knew how to choose cultured, well-mannered friends.

Last evening we had a meal at Debbie and Steve’s home. The salad plate was a work of art. The fruit platter likewise. The main course was set forth with flair.

There was our favorite background music playing throughout. Debbie is thoughtful that way.

My wife and I have entertained enough over half a century to know full well what goes into making guests feel comfortable and happy. At least we have tried our best. So we knew the preparation that went into Debbie’s set-forth.

Therefore, throughout the meal I mentioned several times how tasty this item was, how scrumptious that item was. My wife did the same. We meant it from the heart; this was no mechanical stimulus-response network.

And at the finish, we looked Debbie in the eye to genuinely express our gratitude for everything—and we meant everything for Debbie had thought through everything. That’s her style.

Does it really take that much effort to say “Thank you” in a variety of ways? Seemingly for some it does.

Thank God there are those who offset the stale space occupied by the thoughtless. And to those who know how to be polite in such a manner, many thanks.