Tale Time – A Lesson in Good Manners
Ayim’s parents had made it a special point to insist that he should say ‘Thank you’ whenever anyone did something for him
By Roshan Shah
Ayim’s parents were very proud of their son for his good manners. They had been very particular that he should learn to say ‘Please’ and ‘Excuse me’ and ‘I beg your pardon’ and ‘Sorry’ and ‘If you don’t mind’ and things like that whenever the need arose.
Good manners are such a good thing, aren’t they? Everyone likes being around good-mannered people. If that’s the case with you, too, I’m sure you would be very happy to be friends with Ayim!
Ayim’s parents had made it a special point to insist that he should say ‘Thank you’ whenever anyone did something for him. “That’s the right way to express our gratitude,” they taught him. And so, Ayim would say ‘Thank you’ to someone who opened a door for him, to the shopkeeper he bought something from, to the waiter in a restaurant when he brought him his food, to the bus-conductor for handing him his ticket, to a friend who treated him to an ice-cream, to the postman for delivering a letter addressed to him. Ayim was very particular about his ‘Thank yous’.
That’s so nice, isn’t it?
One day, Ayim’s friend Rosh invited him over for lunch. This was the first time Ayim had visited Rosh’s home. The food was laid out on the table and everyone took their seats. Rosh’s mother passed around the dishes, and Ayim was just about to bite into a giant slice of cake when she interrupted him. “Just a minute dear, we need to say thank you first,” she said.
“Say thank you? To whom?” Rosh thought to himself, taken aback. He dropped the piece of cake in his plate, visibly embarrassed.
Rosh’s mother could make out that this was something new for Ayim. “Before we eat, we must thank the One who gave us all this food, isn’t it Ayim?” she gently said.
“Yes, that’s true, and my parents always insist that I should say thank you,” Ayim replied. “But Aunty, it’s you who’ve arranged for this food for us, and I meant to thank you at the end, when I was going home.”
“Oh, that’s not what I meant, dear,” Rosh’s mother explained. “I didn’t arrange for this food myself. It’s God who did that. All the food we eat is given to us by God. If it wasn’t for God, we’d have no food at all to eat—and no air to breathe or earth to stand on either. After all, it’s God who made the plants we eat, the air we breathe and the earth we stand on. We humans didn’t make them ourselves, did we? So, we need to thank God for all of these things. What do you think, dear?”
Ayim hadn’t ever thought of all of this before. But what Rosh’s mother said made perfect sense to him!
Rosh’s mother continued as Ayim attentively listened. “The farmer, the shopkeeper, the cook, the person who invites us home for a meal—they are just a means through which the food that God has arranged for reaches us,” she explained. “We need to thank them as well, of course—and that’s good manners—but we must remember to thank God, too. Thanking God for everything we have and get—not just food—is part of good manners. What do you say, son?”
“Aunty, you are perfectly right! I never thought this way before. Thank you very much for teaching me this!” Ayim exclaimed.
“Okay, now since you’ve learnt this, maybe you could say some words in thanks to God before we start our meal,” Rosh said to his friend. “That’s the normal practice in our house.”
Ayim gladly did as Rosh suggested. He had never thanked God for his food before—it wasn’t a practice that his parents followed or that they had taught him—and he was a little nervous, but he managed it very well. He folded his hands and closed his eyes and said a small prayer: “Thank you God for the food You’ve given us!”
Rosh felt very happy when he did that, and so did Ayim and his mother. With that they got down to a hearty meal!
Ayim decided he would share this wonderful lesson that he had learnt in good manners later that day with his parents. That night, he sat at the dining table, and just when his parents were about to get down to starting their dinner, he stopped them. “Today I learnt some really good manners at Rosh’s place,” he said to them, explaining what had happened at lunchtime. “We’ve never thanked God for our food,” he told his parents, “but I think we really must. Just as they do in Rosh’s home.”
Now, this was all very new for Ayim’s parents, who had never given God much thought, leave alone thanking God for their food—or for anything else for that matter. But as their son narrated what he had learnt that day, they discovered that what he said was true.
“My goodness! That’s so nice—what you’ve explained to us, son,” Ayim’s father said. “If we don’t thank God for all that we have, it’s being very ungrateful, isn’t it? I have to say that’s what we have been all along.”
“You are right there,” Ayim’s mother added. “By not thanking God for our food all these years and not teaching Ayim to do likewise, we’ve really been very ill-mannered. I’m sorry about that, son.”
“I’m so glad you went to Rosh’s today and learnt what you did and shared it with us,” Ayim’s father said to him. “I think we should make it a habit to thank God before every meal, just as they do in Rosh’s place. What do you say?”
“That’s a wonderful idea!” Ayim’s mother exclaimed. “Let’s start right away, before we get down to our dinner!” Saying that, she turned to Ayim and said, “Son, since you taught us this lesson in good manners, maybe you could lead our first pre-dinner thank you prayer!”
As you can imagine, Ayim was very happy with his mother’s suggestion. He folded his hands and closed his eyes, requesting his parents to do likewise. And then, together they said a little prayer: ‘Thank you God for the food You’ve given us.”
When Ayim and his parents finished their prayer and got down to their dinner, you should have seen how happy they were at the wonderful lesson in good manners that they had learnt!