Friday, February 14, 2014

Manners, Love, and Living Together

When Pope Francis spoke to a meeting of engaged couples, he repeated to them the same advice he had previously given to families: "there are three important words for family life: permesso, grazie, e scusi." I give them in Italian because they lose something in translation, but they correspond to the English "excuse me" (or "please" or "may I...?" -- all of these go with permesso), "thank you" (grazie), and "I'm sorry" (scusi).

In keeping with our "Italiano style" home, Eileen printed out these three words and put them up on the wall in the dining room.

The Pope really nailed it, I think.

Although we have had a few laughs thinking of a some other words that might be added in a home with kids living in it, words like basta! ("enough" or "stop it").

Italians respond to grazie with the beautiful idiomatic term prego which comes from the word for "prayer" (pregare). Prego (literally "I pray") is also used for phrases such as "may I help you?" and to indicate things like "please, have a seat."

It can also be an invitation to "enjoy" as one might say after serving food (and this is how it connects to the well known American brand of spaghetti sauce).

In any case, simple expressions of courtesy are basic if people are going to share life in a human way. I rather like what we say in English as a response to being thanked for something. We say, "you're welcome." There is something fundamentally affirming and open about this phrase. It says, "I'm happy to do this because you are 'welcome' in my life" at whatever level the relationship exists, even if it's just a moment in the checkout line.

We say "thank you" and "your welcome" as we gratefully give and receive one another's generosity.