Layers of Thanks

From the superficial to the depth, there are more layers of thanks than meet the eye.


I teach my children to say, “thank you.” The understanding is, you give me something, I respond in thanks. At its most basic level, we express our thanks acknowledging the words or actions of another individual on our behalf.

“Thank you,” I say.

“You’re welcome,” he responds. And we move on.


The next level moves deeper into the heart. The aid or compliment was not an extra, unnecessary action, but fulfilled a need. I wanted pictures hung because I stare at the walls while resting during pregnancy, and he hung them, even though he hates to hang pictures. This expression goes beyond the basic manners we teach our three-year-old. My words not only acknowledge that you acted in some way to help, assist, or raise me up, but I appreciate the gift or sacrifice on your part to do it. It takes time to think about what it cost you to deepen my gratitude.


When I am no longer incapacitated by physical limitations or the overwhelming stuff of life, I can venture into the third level of thanks: exchange. I acknowledge; I appreciate; and, now, your action inspires action in me, to do likewise for others, as they did to me.

As parents register their kids this season or sign up as volunteers for Hughson Youth Baseball/Softball, we see the same. Baseball and other sports added something of value to their childhood. They want to pay it forward. It is this exchange, this realization of the good given selflessly and then acting on the movement of the heart to give in return that keeps small towns small and rich.


There is yet a deeper level, one in which the understanding begins to dawn upon reflection. This person did something for me, and I can never repay him. His gift was not merely a word, a small deed, but a series of actions, spread out across time, of patient words, of no words when words would not help, of generosity without thanks. Over time, it grows into a gift of self defying the imagination in our cynical grown-up-ness. It is the realization of what parents endure for their child, of what spouses of many years grow into, of what lifelong friends bring to the table.

You gave of yourself. All I can do is stand in awe. I can acknowledge, I can appreciate, I can attempt to exchange, but no effort seems to match what you have done for me.

So, in silence I receive.

These are the moments that bring tears to the eyes. When I was a teenager, outraged with the world, my mother trimmed my nails: a simple gesture of care. It was all she could do at the moment, shedding light on the whole reality that she would give her life for me if only I would let her.

We never reach this level without sacrifice, without letting a part of our will die for the good the other.

Person holding umbrella for a child with storm clouds in the background to illustrate the role of relationship in gratitude.
Photo by J W on Unsplash

This level of thanks, awe, comes only in relationship.

A relationship established, worked on, suffered through, endured, and improved to allow it to grow into something beyond what we could ever imagine: more grandchildren than we can keep track of, a 50th wedding anniversary, friendship in which one travels across the country to dress my kids for bed while I grieve.

We may feel we live our whole life hidden. But as we learned from the Frank Capra film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” no man is a failure who has friends. Let’s find a way to give thanks this November, on all levels.

Want to experience these levels on the community level?

Join the Hughson Ministerial Association on November 21 for the 3rd Annual “Hughson Says Thanks” event at 6 pm at Hughson High School in which representatives from local partner agencies will come together for this now annual event that is held to recognize those that make Hughson a great place to live. A short program will be provided with refreshments to follow. For more information, contact 209.883.4476 or 209.883.0469.

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