‘Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.’
Our wonderful editor has suggested that I should go on the travel page as a ‘travel warning’. Yes, my last trip through Europe seemed to incur the wrath of the ‘winter travel gods’ again. My last trip was on EuroStar from Kent (UK) into Paris (France). This was a trip that was organised with friends to ‘celebrate’ my birthday away from the stresses of everyday living … didn’t include the challenge of snow though! The day before I was due to travel the snow hit Paris, and they were as unprepared as the UK were the week before. I arrived at the EuroStar station in Ashford, Kent and went through to the departure lounge. I was early as I had to return a hire car, but once settled I was able to organise breakfast and started to read. Initially concerned as the train I was booked on didn’t display on the departures board, but as they had let me into the departures lounge I accepted that the train was running. Eventually my train did display and it said ‘on time’ as did the Disney Express scheduled to depart before mine. About an hour before the Disney Express was due to depart the announcements started – the train was late and the reason given was due to the snow in Paris. The train had left Paris late. Eventually 45 minutes late the Disney Express left. It had been fabulous watching all the families and children check-in at the Disney Express counter – the expectations – the excitement – the innocent fun that the word ‘Disney’ conjures in your mind. A few people were left in the lounge waiting for the delayed Paris service. We eventually left 3 caffè latte’s later – 1 hour 15 minutes late. As with every late train we had to fit into a predefined timetable and as we approached Lille for our first stop it was announced that we would be held in the station for about 20 minutes. At this point in my travels from the island through the south of the UK into France I was just grateful that the train was trundling it’s way to Paris (rather than speeding it’s way as it should have been). Another text message to those meeting me at Gare du Nord (the north train station in Paris) saying that I was now going to be 1 hour and 35 minutes late …! Twenty minutes stretched and eventually a further 10 minutes found us pulling away from Lille. We eventually arrived into Gare du Nord 2 hours late! It was interesting watching my fellow passengers – many of whom were very annoyed at being late – some of whom were concerned that they would have missed their onward connections – others like myself were just pleased and grateful that we had arrived safely in Paris.
There is that wonderful statement that things ‘happen in threes’. After a wonderful trip to Paris – Christmas lights, fabulous museums, interesting restaurants – my next trip south was another interesting one. A friend had pre-booked seats on the train and when we arrived not only were our seats not available but the whole carriage wasn’t there. Unlike the UK stations there was no station staff around to talk to, so we boarded the previous carriage and found some seats. Thankfully when the train departed no-one else had come to claim that they had pre-booked these seats. So hopefully now my questionable luck in winter travelling throughout mainland Europe has come to an end – these last three journeys have all brought their own challenges; but one thing I am though is grateful that I’ve arrived in my destinations successfully and this lead to me remember an article written by Mrs Moneypenny in the FT week-end supplement; when she wrote about the two words – Thank you!
‘I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought,
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.’
After the experiences in the snow in the UK I was extremely grateful to arrive safely at each one of my destinations, but as I watched my fellow passengers on EuroStar I realised that what Mrs Moneypenny had said about being amazed how little store some people set in being thankful was so true. She was talking about thanking those who have helped you, and in this I realised that the thank in my last journey should go to the railway staff – the driver(s), conductor(s), buffet car staff, signal staff, etc. – who had persevered to get the train from Paris to London and back again safely. These people are never around when you leave the train, but truly they are the ones that we should have stopped and said ‘thank you’ to as we arrived in Gare du Nord.
It made me think about giving thanks and being grateful. Are these one and the same thing? or are they two completely different things? I am not sure that there is a simple answer to this and this is only one example of how seldom ‘thank you’ is actually spoken or written. I know that as I arrived in Paris and met up with friends at Gare du Nord I was extremely grateful to be there and would have appreciated the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to those who persevered with the elements of the day.
‘I feel a very unusual sensation – if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.’ Benjamin Disraeli
According to the dictionary the definition of grateful is ‘warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful’; while the definition of thank you is ‘expressing one’s gratitude or thanks’. Therefore the feeling of gratitude (being grateful) and expressing your thanks is driven by one and the same thing – a kindness that you have received.
I can remember when the film ‘The Secret’ was first released and although this film is about the Laws of Attraction, one of the things that came through in this film very clearly was the each person interviewed expressed their gratitude; and it brought back to me something that I do without thinking about it – yes it sounds strange, but coming from a country where the traffic volumes are a lot less than those in Europe I started years ago asking for gaps in the traffic at roundabouts, or when I needed to turn right (across the traffic); and expressing my thanks when these gaps appeared and I was able to continue my journey safely. I was discussing the film with a friend over lunch one day and we talked about asking for car parking spaces in a car park – something I had never thought to do, but … seems that others do. One of those interviewed on the film explained that not only did he ask for a car parking space but he asked for one near the door of the mall/shopping centre that he needed to use. Like my experiences at the roundabouts and on turning right, he hadn’t been let down. He also expressed his thanks as his space became available and he parked successfully.
‘I would thank you from the bottom of my heart,
but for you my heart has no bottom.’
How often do we truly feel gratitude? How often do we stop to say ‘thank you’ – to someone in words or in writing – or just quietly to the Universe? As we come into the festive season of the Christian year when there is a lot of giving and a lot of receiving in most families, how often will you stop and be grateful for what you’ve got, what you’ve received, and what you’ve been able to give? When will you spend those special few moments and thank the person or people you are with? Those who’ve made your season special, given you something, and also given you their time?
So I would like to stop and thank the easyJet crew who flew from Stansted and back successfully at the end of November, to my friend S who collected me and battled his way back from Stansted to Ashford to deliver us both safely to their home, to the EuroStar crew who brought the train from Paris to London and back last week, to all those involved in these and many other services that may or may not be visible in support of the services that were visible, and to the Universe for finding those two seats on the train from Paris south.
Every time we remember to say “thank you”,
we experience nothing less than heaven on earth.
Sarah Ban Breathnach