"You don't need to thank me," he said, smiling, "I'm glad to do help."
In the second he said that I flashed back in time to a moment where I really wanted, needed, to thank someone who had made a difference in my life by making a difference in how I see myself. I began to thank her, and like the fellow today, she brushed my thanks away. It was important to her that I knew that she didn't do what she did to garner my gratitude or my thanks, she had done what she had done because it was the right thing to do AND because she, too, was glad to help. I've thought about that a lot over the years. On of my chief regrets is that I didn't actually get the chance to say thank you to her, in a way she understood my meaning, before she died.
Like everyone else, I can have that kind of intense memory in a millisecond, and I was back in the conversation that was happening now, the one that started with me saying, 'Thank you, really, thank you.' I had meant what I said. I was prompted out of my need to say it, not his expectation of hearing it. I said to him, "You may not need me to thank you, but I need to thank you. So, again, thanks."
I could see him struggle with what had happened, he really didn't see that thanks were necessary. But then he doesn't see the world from my eyes. He doesn't know that what was natural for him to do, isn't natural for others. He doesn't know that the attitude with which he dealt with my need in the moment of need, isn't one that I experience often. He doesn't see out of my eyes, he doesn't hear out of my ears, he would not know that his time and his help were given in such a way as to be noteworthy.
He doesn't know that when I'm thanking him, when I'm saying 'thank you,' I mean 'thank YOU.' The YOU that was glad to do it, the YOU who doesn't think a thanks is necessary. More often these days I'm not thanking people for the help I get but for how the help was given. More often these days I'm thanking people's attitude and character not the physical act of helping.
He was gracious and accepted the thanks.
"You don't need to thank me" Um sometimes I actually do have a need to thank. And, as I get older, I find it's as legitimate a need as any other.
I felt like I should have thanked him for letting me thank him ... but I think that would have been too much for him - and it was enough just to have my 'thank you' accepted, my need met.