Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip - Part 4

Part Four: The Most Powerful Word in Finnish

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip
Part 4:  The Most Powerful Word In Finnish

This post is the fourth installment of a blog series chronicling Mr. Rickbeil's educational trip (and much needed vacation) to Finland this past summer.

Before my trip to Finland, I had great ambitions to learn the Finnish language.  Since I just finished graduate school in May, I figured I would have some extra time over the summer to study the language.  I planned to study 30-60 minutes a day, making flash cards, and devoting myself to this extra project.  I even downloaded a Finnish learning program for my computer, convinced it would help me expand my Finnish vocabulary.  It never really worked out.  After graduating, my brain was ready for a break, so I didn't really take out the flash cards. When the summer began, I meant to open up my computer and practice on the software, but it was summer, so I kept finding other things to do.  In fact, I think I practiced on my computer program only two or three times over the whole summer.  In retrospect, I had good reasons to be discouraged about studying the language.  Finnish is one of the most complicated languages in the world, and it is extremely difficult for foreigners to learn.  The language derives from Hungarian, and bears almost no resemblance to the Latin-based languages that I know.  Learning Finnish in 30 minutes a day was not going to work anyway.

Although I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to understand Finnish, I was able to pick up some important words.  I learned to love pekoni (bacon) at the breakfast table with kahvi (coffee) to get me through the morning.  The markets sold many types of lohi (salmon) and plentiful  jäätelö (ice cream) for dessert.  I was even able to pick up the right greeting for the time of day, saying hyvää huomenta (good morning) or hyvää päivää (good day) based on what time it was.   However, the one Finnish word that really opened doors for me was kiitos, the Finnish word for thank you.

The word kiitos had a profound effect on the Finnish people I encountered, and saying the word always seemed to make them smile.  Maybe they felt honored that I was trying to learn Finnish.  Maybe they thought it was cute that an American tourist thought he could attempt to speak their language.  Maybe I was mispronouncing it in a way that was really funny.  Or maybe, expresing gratitude is really more powerful than I ever imagined.

All of the smiles I received encouraged me to say kiitos all the more.  Kiitos to the man who showed me around Helsinki in an impromptu walking tour.  Kiitos to the grocer at the counter who patiently waited on me when I clearly didn't understand how to buy groceries at a Finnish grocery store.  Kiitos to the dry cleaners that told me where I could find a laundromat.  Kiitos to the receptionist at the hotel who gave me directions around town.  Kiitos to every waitress and waitor that served me.  Kiitos to the principals on my study tour that welcomed me into their schools and the professionals that taught me about the Finnish education system.  Everywhere I went, these words had the same profound impact, no matter who I was speaking to.

Although the word kiitos has a nice ring to it, I think "thank you" can have the same powerful impact in our everyday American lives.  When I pray at the end of each day, my first and most important prayer ritual is to thank God for the blessings of the day.  I occasionally write these down, as a reminder that the day really was filled with grace and blessings.  This practice certainly makes me thankful for what I have, but more importantly makes me a more grateful and humble person.  I need to spend more time on this.

A school day, especially in middle school, can be tough on kids. Many young people experience challenges in a school day that can bring them tension, tears, and frustration.  However, when discussing the day as a family, I would encourage you to reflect on the things you were thankful for.  It does not mean that you glaze over the difficult things or minimize the frustrations, but reflecting with gratitude has a way of putting everything in the right perspective.  After all, we are so often blessed with great food, great resources,  and incredible opportunities, and it's so easy to take all of this for granted.  Taking a few moments each day to be thankful can have a profound impact on our year and a transnational impact on our lives.

Finally, I have a final programming note for this week's blog.  I originally planned on making these blog posts a five-part series, but I now realize that I am going to need a few more weeks.  Thus, this week's post is part four of a series that will probably have seven, eight, or nine parts to it by the time it is over.  In the past three weeks, I have been encouraged with the support I have received, and sincerely appreciate the likes, e-mails, and comments I have received from the Trinity family.  I am also grateful for my friends who have been following me on social media, including my mother (thanks, Mom!)  Some of my posts have even been made their way to Finland, which brings me a great amount of joy and satisfaction.  I am most appreciative for all of the support, and I can truly say kiitos from the bottom of my heart.

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