Thank you.
Depending on the tone inflected when those two precious little words exit your mouth, it can become a sarcastic phrase or one filled with love and appreciation for the human being at the receiving end. If you have ever had to remind your child to say thank you to one of their siblings, you can likely hear the sarcasm I am referring to. The begrudging tone a parent can have when they have repeatedly asked a child to follow through on a job that has at long last been finished makes the words feel heavy as they exit your mouth. There are all those times we pry a child off of our legs and attempt to force them to utter a thank you to someone. When at last they do it without parental prodding, it puts a feather in our cap. We sigh inside; at last, they get it. All those years of cajoling two words out of them have paid off.
Yet, there are all the ways to say thank you that aren’t verbal. These may be subtle ways you have to watch for and have a good understanding of someone else to catch.
I was raised to write thank you cards. My grandma and mom instilled the importance in me at a very young age. I’m sure I wasn’t always thrilled at the prospect of sitting and writing a card for every birthday gift when I was little, but when we found Gramma Ike’s scrapbook and saw how she had treasured each and every card that was ever scratched out in child handwriting, I was never more certain of the importance of sending a card. A handwritten thank you card is something tangible you stuff in a drawer, finding at the oddest of moments; and, those cards give you a sudden boost of love that you weren’t expecting. These days, a thank you sent by text message seems more common, more instantaneous and less touchable. They aren’t necessarily a bad thing but a different way of communicating.
Thank you has a language of its own. Everyone needs thank you said (or shown) in a different way. Similar to the love languages we each speak, we have thank you languages as well. I am a feeder of people, and oftentimes, my thank you includes food. Pie is something that never fails to convey a hefty meaning of, “I appreciate you and am lucky to have you in my life.” Many of the people around here speak a dialect of that very same thank you language. Thank you may come in the form of cookies, a pan of bars or a loaf of bread.
There’s also the action of thank you. Speaking from experience, there are moments when our emotions are running a bit high, and we find it impossible to utter two words that even sound remotely genuine.  However, give us a few hours to cool off. After having a conversation in our own head, we realize the other person may deserve a thank you. We may be unable to say the words, so we choose the show route instead. Perhaps we wash their clothes or do a job for them before they get to it. We grab them in a wordless hug or pick them some flowers. We rely on the fact that the person on the receiving end knows us well enough to be able to translate our action into words.
What about the creatures in our world who can’t verbalize a thank you for what we do for them? I daresay Peanut says thank you in his own fuzzy way every time I sit down and he lies on my feet. I interpret that as a big thank you and a fair amount of I love you. The sheep bleat for hay from the moment they hear my voice, hungry or not. They give a silent thank you. The chickens give me eggs as a thank you for feed they like. I have picky birds. They prefer crumbles over mash. The cows, oh those cows. I find myself scolding cows for not behaving after I have pulled their calves, telling them they should thank me in a better way than kicking me like crazy. As if a cow truly cares?
Our animals thank us in small ways. Much like small children who can’t say thank you, we must watch for actions large and small to get our thank you fix. Happy, appreciative cows give us rich, creamy milk. They also give their lives at the end of the line. Peter is always conscious of thanking a cow for giving us years of service before he euthanizes her. She has given us her all, first in the bulk tank then by heading to the freezer to sustain us. It feels appropriate to thank her for that, and when Peter looks into those big eyes and whispers those words, cows understand him and appreciate him too.
Thanking someone for what they do is a big deal. What if it is the only nice thing said to someone over the course of a day? Never underestimate the power of those two words. You saying those words to a person may have a bigger impact than you know.
In closing, thank you for reading my column. It continues to surprise me that people will comment on something they read, and little notes I have received over the years are shoved in drawers to find accidentally and remind me that people enjoy it. Also, thank you to Peter, who had the idea for this column because all my ideas are hiding in my head at the moment.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.