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My View: Even a vending machine knows enough to say 'thank you'

By David Schiller

Days before the anticipated birth of our second grandchild, first one in Israel, Beverly, my wife and soul mate, and I hopped happily on a plane!

We took a taxi cab through the city of Jerusalem on the winding roads to Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital.  Jerusalem is built on hills.  There are no straight streets. The hospital is situated next to several green, terraced, hills.

This hospital is a very cosmopolitan place.  Jewish Israelis, orthodox Jewish Israelis, ultra-orthodox Jewish Israelis, Arab Christian Israelis, Arab Moslem Israelis,  and Palestinians are all here as patients and as employees.  It is a real picture of the family of man in a hopeful and helpful part of the Mid-East.

Meeting our latest grandchild was a thrill.   We were grateful for the care by the doula, the midwife, the physician, and the entire staff in the delivery room and in the happy place called the maternity ward.  Eastern European food was brought into the ward by families (including by our in-laws).  Spicy Sephardic food  was brought in by Israelis of North African descent.  The delightful savory smells of Arab dishes and pita bread also filled the hallway of the ward.  Everyone happy and grateful, and everyone celebrating the birth of babies by indulging in the bounty of the land.

The mothers were busy, Bev and I were very much in the way.  A few hours passed since lunch.  We decided to go to a vending machine on the floor below for a treat.  The variety of treats in the machine included a chocolate and almond covered vanilla ice cream bar.  The coins tumbled into the metal, soul-less machine, after which we made the selection.

The mechanized lid of the freezer opened, then a vacuum device moved to the stack of the ice cream treats, sucking up the topmost bar, after which it indifferently dropped the ice cream bar into the reception bin.

“Todah” (“thank you” in Hebrew) said the machine as I grasped  the ice cream bar with my hand.   My jaw dropped.  No vending machine ever thanked me for a purchase.  As a matter of fact, human beings in stores rarely say “thank you” these days.

Often we are told by the sales clerk at the register “I need you to sign here” (on the credit card slip).  Perhaps at another store the sales associate might say “Do you want that in a bag?”  Sometimes I hear “Have a nice day.”  Several times I heard “There you go” while handing me the bag containing my purchase.  All of these statements are in place of a simple “thank you.”

Are the owners and stockholders of businesses not grateful for our purchases?  Is it passé to say “Thank You?”  Where is the human touch of gratitude for our business and the nice ending to an experience that will hopefully bring us back to buy again?

We learned about the “Ten Days of Thanks” campaign in Israel during which young people visit employees in various places of hard and sometimes thankless work, to express gratitude for their efforts.  The leader of the campaign stated: “Practicing gratefulness makes us happier people and that makes for a healthier society.”

Dennis Prager’s book “Happiness is a Serious Problem” teaches:  gratitude is the key to happiness.

That soulful vending machine “knows” gratitude, because its owner is grateful, even if that owner is not present in the specific moment.

Hopefully we can all learn a lesson from that metal machine.  We ought to make certain the human touch of simple gratitude is part of our daily transactions.  Gratitude is not passé.

David Schiller values the virtue of gratitude.


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