Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is around the corner. You are probably preparing for a long trip or a grand banquet.

In the spirit of thanksgiving, I started a mental list of the people I would like to thank. It was hard to pick names; they simply won’t fit in this blog. Oscar nominees must undergo this agony when writing thank you speeches. I imagine the loser’s list lying forlorn on a red carpet.

The best expressions of gratitude are the unexpected kind. We once hired a lovely young man whom, through a series of missteps, I reluctantly had to terminate. It was very difficult for me, since I had grown very fond of him. A year after we parted ways, just a few days before Thanksgiving, he called me.

My mind conjured up assorted dastardly reasons for his call, but to my surprise and shame, he said in a soft voice, “I just wanted to thank you. I learned a lot at Flic Spa. And I’m grateful for having met you and Oliver. I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving.”

Oliver likes to remind me that when you do a favor, you shouldn’t expect thanks. But how realistic is this? We know a woman who donated a kidney – a kidney! – to her best friend. Years later, the recipient’s new husband made her cut ties to the kidney’s baby mama. I think our friend the donor deserves better -- monthly thank you cards, at the very least. For heaven’s sake, she gave a kidney! “Tell her to give it back!” I snapped. “Or at least pay you rent.” Oliver gave me an ungrateful stare.

We Filipinos have a cultural quirk called utang na loob. Loosely translated, it means “debt of gratitude.” Basically, if I do something for you, you are now my emotional prisoner. Forever. I later learned that other cultures share a version of this phenomenon. You will hear the following, in many languages:

After everything I have done for you…

The rest, often unsaid, is you ungrateful swine, I curse you and your family.

There are people in our lives who suck out all our charity, and doing favors for them is on par with donating a kidney. They ask for this or that, and once they get what they want, vanish into the ether. Until they need a new favor, which is when we vanish into the ether. On the opposite side of the universe. Where cell phone service sucks. So stop calling me. You know who you are.

When my friend Anna was sick, I cooked her dinner and popped in a Margaret Cho DVD. I thought she could use good food and a good laugh. Years later, she would talk about my act of friendship as though I had singlehandedly stopped a tsunami. I admit all her gushing made me feel simultaneously proud and embarrassed. But I did it out of love, no strings attached. She is grateful, and I am grateful in return.

At the spa, I try to begin each session with a declaration of gratitude. I am thankful you are here, acutely aware you could have gone elsewhere; thankful for our fleeting time together, until our paths cross again. During this quiet exchange of energy, in the privacy of your suite, I give fully of myself, my hands laying squarely on your aches and pains, shifting their trajectory into a fleeting memory.

So, to our Flic Spa clients, our friends and family, our staff, our acquaintances in the ether, I want to say thank you, no strings attached. I am grateful for having met you. I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving.


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