In 2009, myself and my family made a ferry crossing over the channel and from there drove to the south of France. It was the first time that I had driven on the opposite side of the road to what I’m used to in the UK and only the second time that I had driven in a foreign country. The first being Ireland on our honeymoon, when we hired a car from Cork airport and drove southwest to County Kerry, a stunningly beautiful place by the way. Still, I wasn’t nervous about driving as they drive on the same side as the UK, the left, and all the road signs were in English! Driving on the European mainland was a different experience altogether.
I recall driving off the ferry at the port of Le Harve, feeling quite anxious. I was so nervous about all sorts of things, one of them was the roundabouts! I’d gone so far as to buy a small transparent sticker for the inside of my windshield which had bendy arrows pointing which way you should go round a roundabout. I thought I might make a big mistake and default to turning left, that would have been a disaster… but I digress.
I drove off the ferry, and we eventually found the main highway which had two lanes on either side, and I managed to drive on the correct one. I didn’t, however, drive in the correct lane. What my mind thought was the ‘slow’ lane (the left), was, of course, the ‘fast’ lane used for overtaking. After a few miles of folks beeping at me and making the odd rude gesture, I finally figured out what I’d done and made a move to the right. The rest of the drive went quite smoothly from there on in.
I say all that just to put something into context that I’d never seen before on UK roads. As I got used to overtaking and spending some time in the ‘fast’ lane, occasionally I would see in my rearview mirror a motorbike approaching, clearly going faster than I was. So I would indicate to go right so that they might pass without ‘undertaking’ me.
But then an odd thing would happen, they would pass by then gently stick their right leg out before zooming off. After this happened a few times it finally clicked what they were doing – they were saying “thank you”. Of course, they didn’t want to let go of the handlebars and raise a hand to say thanks like car drivers do in the UK, so they used their leg! They didn’t have to do this and say thanks. I was probably driving a bit slower than most folks were used to, and so it was quite right that I should move aside.
How many times do we say ‘thank you’ when we probably don’t need to? We would get away with it without any bother. But when we do say thanks, it makes everybody feel just that little bit better about the world.
When you’re crossing at a zebra crossing do you say “thank you” to the driver that has stopped to let you go, or do you think that as it’s your right to cross and you’re both following the rules of the road, you don’t have to?
When someone lets you in line in slow-moving traffic are you one of those people who puts the blinkers on as a way of saying “thank you” to the person behind? When this happens to you, does it make you feel happy, glad to have done your bit for your fellow human, and fleetingly everything is okay with the world?
I think that when we develop a habit of saying “thank you”, and adopt a lifestyle of thankfulness, it helps us truly appreciate what we have and what we have been given. When we put this into the context of our spiritual lives, it is good to cultivate thankfulness by giving thanks regularly to God.
As Christians, we believe that God created everything, and, at least in the beginning, God said it was all good. And although creation doesn’t look like God intended, I think that a thankful heart expressing that thankfulness regularly does something to the circumstances and the atmosphere around us. It gives us a glimpse of what life should be like; one that is worshipful and grateful for every breath and every new day.
There is a verse in the first letter to Timothy in the New Testament that says everything God created is good, and we should not reject any of it, but receive it with thanks.
When you’re next crossing that road, being let into line on the road, receiving change from a shop cashier, getting off that bus, or when a waiter brings you food and so on and so on, say “thank you” and cultivate a lifestyle of thankfulness. Just see what happens to you and those around you when you do.