How Shall I Value Goodness?

Dear Us,

In long forgotten days of yore, our people practiced an ancient tradition of extending gratitude to someone carte blanche. A good deed done, the recipient would express thanks.

“Thank you.”

And then the deed doer would in one two word response (well three if you don’t count the marriage of “you” and “are” through the eternal  apostrophe as a legitimate union) express that the relationship is not yet concluded.

“You’re welcome.”

You have to think for a second to realize what that actually means. Words mean things. That’s why we encourage a vocabulary of more than “Steak. Yes. Hubba hubba” and “Ouch.” There’s a reason why certain words rise to prominence and why the people who tell the stories of our post-modern era try to push certain words over others.

“Illegal immigrant” vs “Undocumented Worker.” Suddenly you, without too much truth bend, you turn a person who flouts the border integrity and national sovereignty of a place he does not belong to a productive dude with a paperwork problem.

Words matter.

So why in the name of bizarrely stated rituals do we say “You’re welcome?” What are we saying?

Someone comes into your home and you welcome them. The mat where the mud of their shoes wipes often says “welcome.” When you enter into a new state whilst driving interstate, most states have visitor centers, whereupon entering some signage somewhere will say “Welcome to our awesome state, please stay and pay taxes…” or something like that.

Welcome expresses an open invitation to be here. To posses this moment as your own. Mi casa es su casa. If you are welcome, you are not suspect. You have a visa to my home.

And let’s be honest here. Introverts of the world. How amazing would it be to make people apply for entrance into our homes with pre-stated departure times. Heeeeeeeeaven.

When we are thanked for something, we say… well we used to say, “You’re welcome.”

Do you know what we do now?

“Oh, it was nothing…” or “I wish it could have been a better job, I really need to learn how to weed whack…” or “We’ve just been thinking about you guys.”

or the thing that is ruining western culture

“Just paying it forward.”


And look, no disrespect to Haley Joel Osmitt… Osmett… Asmith… that one kid actor and the rest of the cast. Some really famous people, I guess. I love that movie. Very moving. Moving Movie. Words…

But paying it forward is an erosion of the idea of love.

In case you missed the part of the previous decade free of the TSA, color coded terror warnings and debates over how to pronounce the country named Qatar, it goes like this. Kid assigned to change the world. Kid says “Do good thing for three people. Tell each of them to do good things for three people. Then buy amway. Or something like that. Kid tries his experiment. Mom falls in love with teacher… cuz movie. Kid dies. Wut… and then the world starts paying it forward. And Sarah McLaughlin sings a song.

Had me crying into my popcorn.

The problem with paying it forward is that it removes the emotional response to kindness. It becomes a transaction, rather than love. I bought your tank of gas for you because I’m in this paying it forward debt. I was kind to you on the train because someone bought me gas and now my account is in the red. Some dude was kind to me on the train so I’m going to give a homeless dude a sandwich. I just need to get back to not owing the universe my goodness.

What ever happened to love?

What ever happened to generosity?

It’s like charging a dining party of 20 a 20 percent server gratuity. I’m all for mandating a service charge, but it is no longer gratuity if it’s on the bill. Gratuity, from “gratis” or “free” means it was my choice to give and I gave. My buddy Greg put a link up on Facebook the other day about a study showing that people of one group were less altruistic than another group. It was thought provoking and possibly flawed, but I’m interested in knowing how our current culture stacks up to others in the realm of altruism.

Altruism. That’s a good word.

Let me come back to the idea that when you do something kind that you will eventually have a chance to apologize for it. You will need to explain yourself. Giving good things is not part of the normal human heart or experience. That’s why we say something after “Thank you.”

If you’re paying it forward, you only do so as you have an imbalance on your ledger. And if you’re a jerk, you’re not going to need to pay a lot forward. People do not often treat foul mouthed malcontents with kindness. And such persons will often not actually express thanks for such an act to initiate the “pay it forward” IOU. So when you do something kind and your recipient interrogates you with a “Thank you.” You respond back with “Pay it forward.”

Boom! They know whence came your kindness. And they now have to engage your kind of trickle down goodness.

But there is, in theory a different source of good work.


Love is a virus that grows in your heart, nurtured by those similarly afflicted. Theories range on the origin of love, from the mundane “It’s just chemicals in the brain trying to make you multiply the species” to the much more strange and inexplicable, “It’s the key to understanding your special creation and your creator.”

Either way, it’s something, that in its purest form makes you do things. For those who commit themselves to the purity of love, good work and kind acts are no longer on a ledger. They are a product. Just like the carbon dioxide that your lungs produce, like the heat that your digestion produces, like the sound your heartbeat produces, love produces kindness.

And gentleness.

And self control.

It’s like some sort of crazy fruit.

We should list them.

In sevens.

But anyway, back to the point. When you do something kind, own it.

I mean, as much as you can own your carbon dioxide. Especially if you’ve been eating garlic. OWN IT!

It’s become some sort of exercise in fake humility to organize yourself, your life, your resources,  your words and point them at a person who, upon receiving them is receiving love and then upon the successful good doing, when the person stands grateful, we make nothing of it. Like… DUDE, you can be proud of that moment!

Stop downplaying it. Stop apologizing for it. Stop being fake humble.

And say “You’re welcome.”

Because if someone is welcome, they have a visa to your kindness and residence in your heart. If someone is welcome, that goodness is going to happen again, free of charge as last time. If someone is welcome, they don’t owe you, or anyone else JACK. Because love doesn’t keep a tab. Love makes good things happen.

It’s time to have more resident aliens in our hearts. It’s time to have fewer undocumented kindnesses. It’s time to open the borders of our lives with a big “You’re Welcome” sign. But only if you’re ready to let people in.



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