A Thanksgiving homily reminded me of something that happened on my recent pilgrimage in Italy. I never quite managed to learn Italian before I went, so I spent 10 days with only a few words in Italian. The one I used the most was “Grazie.” I used it with italians and other Americans indiscriminately. I used it with strangers whose nationality I didn’t know. I thanked people for the smallest things: opening a door, putting food on the table, giving me change, wrapping a parcel, or any time I didn’t know what else to say. I used it when people took pity on me and asked if I would like them to speak English: “Si. Grazie!”
I knew that I was thanking people far more than I do here at home. Or perhaps i was just noticing it more. In part I was simply wrapped in a spirit of gratitude throughout the trip because I couldn’t quite believe that i was actually in Italy. Making an attempt to speak the language of the country I was visiting mattered a great deal to me. It seemed, at the very least, the polite thing to do. So is thanking people for the many ways in which they give of themselves to others every day.
I added a few more words to my vocabulary by the end of the 10 days, but “Grazie” was the one I most wanted to keep using when I came back to the States. In such a short time it became almost a habit. I didn’t even have to think about it. I’m working on making the gratitude itself as much of a habit.