Alyssa Sellers

Translating Thanks

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TranslationWe don’t have enough words to express gratitude in the English language.

About five weeks ago I severely sprained my right shoulder and have been unable to use that arm effectively since. This means I have been in pain, out of work and, consequently, pay.

As a single woman, this could be an overwhelmingly frightening experience.

However, during this time I have experienced an incredible amount of generosity. A wonderful menagerie of friends have taken me to visit urgent care, physical therapy, and the emergency room, provided me with lunch, dinner and brunch, washed my dishes, swept my floors, vacuumed my rugs, listened to my rambles, taken me on random low-key adventures, and occasionally allowed me to convalesce in their air conditioned abodes. These people have extended kindness and love in beautiful, practical, and necessary ways and I am immensely grateful.

I have struggled to express my gratitude accurately; saying thank you doesn’t seem like enough.

I mean, can a phrase I utter to a barista after receiving a bathroom key attached to a giant metal spoon really carry the same weight when said to a friend who drove a continuously vomiting me to the emergency room and then sat with me as the night turned into the morning of her birthday? The night wasn’t all bad, we did catch a midnight cable channel showing of Cutting Edge on the TV mounted in the corner, but still.

I wonder if thank you feels inefficient because we say it too much.

When I traveled to Nepal three years ago the Nepalis I encountered were kind and generous. Once the woman my friend calls Didi (a term of endearment literally translated as older sister in Nepali) baked us a delicious loaf of banana bread.  When I asked for the Nepali word for thank you I was told they don’t really have one, at least not one to use in the casual way Americans do. Only after something extremely generous occurs would one say the formal thank you, dhanyebaad. Nepalis also don’t have a word for please, it’s a cultural thing.

Since I live in America and my culture does use thank you on the regular I will continue to do so as well. But in addition, I will do something else American and appropriate the word dhanyebadd  and use it to mean EXTREME GRATITUDE.

So today, to my friends who have given me so much of their time, energy, and resources and to my parents who are making it possible for me to pay next month’s rent and to my God who has placed all of these wonderful, beautiful people in my life, I say, I love you, your kindness has meant the world to me, dhanyebadd.


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