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The true meaning of gratitude – a blog by Philip King

14 August 2014

I don’t know about you but I’m one of those people who believes there is no excuse for bad manners and little things like saying ‘thank you’ are an essential part of everyday life and culture. I confess to, on occasions, being guilty of offering a sarcastic ‘you’re welcome’ when someone has waltzed through a door I’ve held open for them without even acknowledging the gesture. Recent events have led me to think about being grateful and saying thank you.

Some reading this might know that I was involved in a quite nasty car accident a couple of weeks ago and, although I miraculously suffered no serious injuries, I’ve spent some time recovering and I’m not quite there yet. As I’ve thought back over the events, I’ve considered the people involved and recognised that they are less small minded than I am when I worry about being thanked for a trivial gesture.

My first recollection after the accident was of a young lad, I’d guess a teenager, shouting at me to look at him and not to close my eyes, and telling me that an ambulance was on its way. I have no idea who he is, or why he happened to be there but I’m grateful. I recall a policeman (I’ve since learnt his name – Mark Smith) who talked to me, asked questions, and made sure I was as comfortable as possible, and his colleague who I could hear on his radio making sure other things were happening as they should. Dave was a fireman whose face I never saw but who sat behind me holding my head secure in his hands for over two hours, explaining every action that was being taken, forewarning me of every bang or clunk, and ensuring the rest of his team did nothing to make my experience worse than it already was. Tyrone and his colleague medic were constantly on hand and attentive, and went to great lengths to ensure that things I needed from the car accompanied me to hospital and even looked for, and found, things I hadn’t thought of.

Finally, there were nurses and doctors in Kettering Hospital A&E Department who took great care of me throughout the assessment process, scans, x-rays and the like until I was discharged in the early hours. I know the name of one nurse, Helen, but no others. And then, of course, there’s my wife, Mary, and family who have been amazing while I’ve been at home and without whom I have no idea how I’d have managed.

What has struck me is that throughout the process many people were involved, did their bit and handed over to the next person in the chain. All of them just faded away as their tasks were completed, satisfied that their job had been well done and moving on to help someone else. No sarcastic ‘you’re welcome’ from any of them, and no expectation that I would offer thanks or gratitude.

I’m away for the next couple of weeks having been given the all-clear to fly and told that some sun is just what I need to complete the recovery process. In the meantime I know I have much to be grateful for, and many people I’d like to thank in person but I’ll say one thing: I might just be a little less precious the next time I hold a door open for somebody – there are more important things to worry about.

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