No one says thank you anymore.
I’m having some problems understanding the new culture. It’s been called narcissism, but that definition alone probably needs explanation.
Perhaps it’s the culture of ‘expectations’, or perhaps it’s the culture of ‘deserving.’ Perhaps it’s a culture of flippancy, where nothing really matters, and who cares anyhow? Or perhaps it’s something altogether different. Something I have no ability to sort out.
I was talking with someone this morning who said, “We’ve given several wedding and shower gifts recently and haven’t received a single thank you note”.
For myself, I gave a sizable donation to a local charitable organization a few months ago. Now, in the bad old days, a thank you note would have arrived in the mail within one week. That hasn’t happened. And it won’t be happening. Because today, so few see the need.
I’m convinced that not all cultural changes are good or beneficial. I’m also convinced that our culture is lessoned, or diminished, by some of the changes.
We are writers. When we write and publish for public consumption, we become influencers.
We write to entertain and inform. Yes, we like to entertain. There’s something special about having someone we don’t know, and will never meet, sitting by the wood stove on a rainy afternoon, reading one of our books.
But we also inform. Of course, we inform. How could we not, when we are dealing with situations both good, and not so good, in our stories.
How the protagonist deals with the threat to his / her loved ones tells a lot about who the protagonist is. By extension, perhaps it tells something about who I am, or who you are, as the writer.
To create conflict and tension in our stories we insert difficult situations and characters who, in real life, we would not invite home for dinner. We, the writers, are in charge of how all of that works out or is dealt with.
I feel some responsibility to demonstrate decency and thoughtfulness in my stories. I don’t ignore or deny the existence of difficult times nor of difficult people. And sometimes our fictional life can be a rough life, where rough methods are called for. But surely there is a way to show right from wrong and thankfulness from selfishness, without losing the story line or becoming maudlin.
Here is a small example from my upcoming novel, ‘Mac’s Law’:
Mac and Marshal Hambley shook hands. “It’s good to meet you Mac. I’ve been hearing glowing reports of your work.”
“Most of that work was done by my brothers and the Mexican men they hired and deputized. And by Casey Bechtel.”
“I understand Mac. It’s often the case that the difficult work is done by the line riders, while the man with the title takes the credit. It’s a mark of your character that you pass the credit along.”
A short while ago I read a new western novel. When I finished reading the last page, I realized that there was not a single ‘good guy’ in the entire story. But that’s not the real world. Nor is it the world I wish to promote.
Since writers are influencers, I’m simply suggesting that we keep in mind the betterment of our culture. And I really don’t think that having someone in our tales say ‘thank you’ is going to detract too much from the tension of the story line. Our readers are going to soak a little bit of what we write, into their minds. I would rather that little bit was building up, rather than tearing down.