As a child whenever I received something and forgot to say “thank you”, my mom would recite this verse to me:

Hearts like doors open with ease
To very, very little keys.
And don’t forget that two of these
Are “I thank you,” and “if you please”.

At the dinner table when I wanted the vegetables and just reached for them, Mom would remind me, “What do you say?” She would then smile and begin … “Hearts like doors…” and expect me to continue the verse. So saying “Please” and “Thank you” became a habit with me from my early years until now.

When I came to the Philippines in 1962 (I was born and grew up on a dairy farm in the hills of Vermont, U.S.A.) to marry Jun Catan of Palinpinon, Negros Oriental, I continued this habit of small courtesies. At first I wondered if this was a difference in the two cultures because I noticed that not many Filipinos said “Please”. But as I began to understand the language a bit more, I found out that there are many polite nuances in Cebuano and Tagalog that promote an innate courtesy among most Filipinos. For instance, there is “paki” and “po”…

But in today’s busy world, especially in the big cities like Manila, it seems that sometimes the common courtesy of saying “Please” and “Thank you” is forgotten amidst the stress and struggle of getting things done, going more places, accumulating greater achievements, getting more money, achieving a better social status. In so doing, we experience how easy it is to make enemies rather than friends, how much easier it is to “make lusot” rather than say “I’m sorry, I made a mistake.”

Fred Astaire once said, “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” We parents and grandparents need to revert to the basics of good manners and right conduct if we want our children and their children to know and practice the fundamental concepts of courtesy that help ease one’s passage through life. To paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt, we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.

The skills of building, nourishing, and strengthening right relationships, to my mind, cannot be replaced by TV soaps, texting, FaceBook or Twitter. These communication avenues may be okay for keeping one informed on current events, but certainly they lack the personal, caring empathy needed for true Christian friendships to flourish.

I like to think that the children’s verse my mom taught me is a simple and easy way of practicing Christian love and bringing everyday epiphanies (manifestations of God’s presence) into the family, among friends and acquaintances, even into the BCBP community. It is never relationship building to take others for granted by just pointing when you want something or assuming they understand your unintelligible grunts of appreciation.

In the workplace for example, it only takes less than a minute to preface your request for another copy of a document at the office with a smile and “please,”; you will find that usually this will get the job done easier and faster. Thanking the clerk who did the copying when she returns the documents to you will lighten the day for both of you.

“Hearts like doors open with ease, To very, very little keys.” Being polite and courteous to others by simply saying, “Thank you” and “If you please,” always warms my heart and, I would like to think, also warms the hearts of others.

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1 comment

denise m foster January 21, 2014 - 5:49 am

This was so great to read, thank you. When I was living with an aunt for a time after my Dad died, she would say this and it really stuck with me. I found your sight because I Googled, the first line to see if I had it right. Our grandson had just emailed thank you to me and I was returning his message and telling him that thanking was a wonderful habit and gave him the little poem.

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