But I want to say one other thing, in case you ever go through a similar tribulation, and people overwhelm you with their kindness, and you start feeling, dare I say, burdened by the need to feel sufficiently, publicly grateful. When I was feeling that way, I told my spiritual director. And he told me—I will probably get this a little bit wrong—that monks in the order of St. Benedict, which is known for its hospitality, are not allowed to say thank you.
They are not allowed to say thank you, because the offering of hospitality is a rule; God wants us provide shelter and comfort and care to one another. So receiving comfort or hospitality from another doesn’t indebt us to them in any way, and therefore doesn’t require a payment in the form of socially-mandated gratitude.
Back in the Days of Many Gifts, I found myself wishing I had a handler, someone with much better handwriting than mine, and a more linear sense of the progression of stationery-stamp-mailbox, to write fervent thank yous to people. I didn’t know how to sort out the people who really secretly wanted to be thanked, who needed that thanks, from the people who are ok just knowing their gift may have helped in some way.
Now I find myself wishing we could all be the kind of people who know that No Thanks is necessary; that we are called by God to offer what comfort we can, when we can, and we are bound in inextricable webs of care, invisible to our eyes. And we might never get a beautifully written formal thank you for this or that kindness we did, but we can be satisfied knowing we have entered holy orders, we are lay Benedictines going about offering comfort and not needing any but God’s recognition for it. And maybe not even that.