Thank you.

It’s such a simple phrase… and can be so meaningful, both when used as it should be and when totally ignored.

I was recently on a shuttle in Disney World watching a 15 year old boy who was (quite impressively, actually – a magician in training as I later found out) shuffling a deck of cards next to his mom and younger brother when one of the cards slipped his grip and flew a few feet away.

A man sitting across from him was generous enough to grab the card and hand it back.

Though, to my dismay, the boy took the card without even a glance towards the man helping went on with his shuffling as he took the card and inserted it back in the deck.

No ‘thanks.’ No smile. No acknowledgement whatsoever.

No respect.

The funny thing is that my wife and I watched him turn to graciously interact with an older couple sitting right next to him who found an interest in his tricks. So clearly he had a kind personality.

So what prompted the total lack of gratitude – or basic human acknowledgement – towards someone who just made a simple kind act for a stranger?

His mom just sat there and watched. Like nothing even happened.

After the bus stopped to let everyone off at our stop, the two boys did their best to be the first ones off, doing their best to jet past the older couple and anyone else who may beat them off the bus.

Jess went behind them, first allowing the older couple off as well. Then the boys’ mom got up and, rather blank in her stare, stood still as she lingered, assuming I would also make my way off as quickly as possible.

But instead, I stopped and waited until I made eye contact with her to let her proceed and be closer to her family.

“Go ahead,” I said with a smile and slight directional nod. We were at Disney World after all, so smiling is required, of course.

She looked at me with a dumbfounded look. “Thank you,” she replied, brimming with surprised delight, a hint of question in her reply.

Why such delight? Why such shock?

It occurred to me in that moment that someone in the family was potentially dropping the ball. I’m not here to make assumptions, especially with someone not present in that moment.

But a 15 year old should know the simple act of a Thank You. Or at least a look of gratitude towards someone who helped him.

Eye contact, a smile, a simple Thank You can go a really long way.

If we’re not collectively teaching that idea to younger generations, then it’s only going to get worse.

One of my strongest pet peeves is when I hold the door open for someone and they proceed to barge through on their own mission, with utterly no regard I’m standing right there – as if they considered it an expectation. That they deserved it.

And let me be clear – I’m not asking for a response for any selfish reason. For me to require a response would be every bit as much an unnecessary expectation.

I get bothered by it because it’s a potential sign of how they actually live their life. Complete disregard for those that surround them. A general lack of acknowledgment of humanity as a whole. Solely consumed by self and the disregard for others around them.

And passing this standard of living on to younger generations.

Instead, doing quite the opposite can create a ripple effect of positive change and love – just by passing on a simple smile, a nod, a thank you.

Let’s not forget this – and more importantly, let’s make sure the ones we influence the most receive that message from us.

The two simple words that are getting lost…