Ben Stein's Diary

Christmas Gifts

Have you thanked your parents?

By 12.6.13

Saaleha Bamjee (Flikr Creative Commons)

Now for a few words about a great gift idea for those of you blessed enough to have living parents. Recently, I sat at lunch with two young women who were in a drug treatment facility. They rattled off their horror stories about their drug use, about how they disappeared from home for weeks or months at a time with shady boyfriends, about how their parents put them in one rehab after another at staggering expense, about how their parents could not sleep at night for years worrying about them, about how their parents showed infinite love and care for them year after year. They talked about what fabulous parents they had and how sorry they were for what they put their parents through.

I finally asked them, “Do you ever thank them?” They hesitated a bit and said they were sure they had thanked them.

I asked them, “Let me tell you as a parent the absolute hell you put your parents through. Your parents are my age now. You should make it a point to call them every single day and tell them how grateful you are. Every darned day. Every morning and every night.”

This got me to thinking. Do we, even if we might be adults who are not drug addicts, think back to what our parents have done for us? Do we think of how our parents basically are our servants and we their masters for decades and how rarely we show them any gratitude? I often refer back to my own life, when I think of how my father and mother scrimped and saved to get through the Great Depression, knew real economic fear, and yet I thought nothing of living like a playboy once I got into college. How that must have torn them up. I often think of my wonderful wife’s father, who fought hand to hand against the Nazi SS in World War II and then in rice paddies up to his neck in Vietnam and she never thanked him until I told her it was a moral imperative.

Wake the heck up if you are blessed enough to have living parents who treated you decently. They sacrificed more for you than you can ever understand until you are parents — and this is especially true for the children of single mothers.

Wake up and give your parents and yourselves a truly great gift: the gift of gratitude, expressed loudly and with real sincerity for the rest of your lives. There is nothing they will like better, ever. There is no smart phone, no car, no sweater, no jewelry they will ever like better. And when they are gone, you will be glad you did it for the rest of your life.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.