Words we don't hear much any more. When people thank us for having done something nice, we've gotten into the habit of being offhanded. Whether the good deed is big or little we say "No problem" or "No big deal." Yet we may feel unappreciated. So what's the big deal about saying "You're welcome"?
I first noticed this when a co-worker got sick one day in the office. I knew there was no one at home to take care of her, so the best thing was to close her door, get her comfortable with some warm afghans, and pray with her. She fell peacefully asleep and woke up a short while later feeling a lot better and ready to work.
The next day, she thanked me, and I said "No problem." But she was really grateful, because she realized that in helping her, I had gotten behind in my work. She's a dear friend, and I'm grateful to have her in my office. I assured her that it wasn't hard to catch up, and there was nothing I'd rather have done than be a support to her. Isn't that what saying "You're welcome" does? It says two things: To the other person, it says they're worthy of help. For us, it's a way of admitting to ourselves that we're glad to help.
That last point has become the key to understanding a more consistent basis of happiness for me. As much as the demands of the day can seem overwhelmingly occupied with the needs of others, the bottom line is that there's nothing more lastingly satisfying than knowing that we've helped someone.
Aren't the worst thoughts those that try to convince us that we're not needed? Self-belittlement is hell on earth. Not only does it shrink our perspective into the boring repetitions of our own weaknesses and difficult life-problems; self-absorption fools us into thinking we are useless to ourselves and worthless to others. Serving others is the way we identify our best thinking, our best qualities. It awakens us to the opportunities to see how we fit in God's creation.
The most secure basis of worth is the reality of our relation to God. When the Bible speaks of our being made in the image and likeness of God, it means that we exist to make God knowable. We exist to express God's qualities intelligence, compassion, patience, and joy. One of the primary ways we get to live those qualities is through helping other people. It's not that we fill in the blanks of what other people are missing. Helping others in its best sense is helping them find the beauty of God's qualities in themselves. Sharing our strength is for the purpose of helping others to find theirs.
Have you ever thought that God says "You're welcome" to us? The Bible is full of statements about how God delights in us, and that we are "the apple of his eye" (Deut. 32:10). God made us in a way that is worthy of His devotion and attention. When we thank God for something, we can be open to hearing our Father-Mother say, "You're welcome, dear child. I love doing these things for you. You are precious to me, and I love and support you."
There's a security in that kind of relationship. It means we don't have to look to the world for reinforcement. Even if no one notices any of the good things we do, we can feel appreciated by the God who made us and needs our expression. We can devote ourselves to the work God has appointed for us without being distracted by the hunger for the world's approval.
It's right to feel appreciated, but there are never enough accolades to satisfy the human heart. The greatest assurance of our worth is from our relation to the Divine, the very origin of life. When we see God as the unlimited source of our being, we can feel His love supporting and maintaining creation. God knows each of us intimately and provides all that is needed for the full expression of our individuality.
Hearing God say "You're welcome" enables us to be more gracious in saying it to others. It is the promise of a more secure sense of worth for all.
Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart,
and nothing else can.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)