Whatever Happened to…?

I have seen many changes in my lifetime. Some of these changes I applaud. But others I lament. Here are a few changes I lament–or at least I wonder about.

You’re in a restaurant. The waitperson brings you water. You say, “Thank you.” She says, “No problem.” You ask the car mechanic if he could check the air filter. He says, “Sure! No problem.” You ask the deli clerk for a half a pound of shaved ham, and she says, “No problem!” My question is this: where did this no problem come from? And how and why has it usurped the place of phrases such as you’re welcome or I’d be happy to?

You turn on the TV news. The first words you hear are Breaking News! Or you go on line and there’s a headline in big red letters flashing BREAKING NEWS! Your first thought is: something awful is happening. But then you learn that the so-called breaking news is a rather ordinary news story about a water main break or an arrest for a robbery. It used to be that the phrase breaking news was reserved for something major and in progress. Now it seems to be used just to grab our attention.

"No problem!"

“No problem!”

And here’s another thing about news that I lament. What constitutes news? The priest sexual abuse scandal—now that was news, yet (as shown in the movie Spotlight) the Boston newspapers buried the story for years. And what about the more recent news about Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water supply? The news media never picked up on that story for months! What constitutes news is changing. Now news means not a significant event with serious ramifications. No, news now seems to mean the latest celebrity gossip or the ever-present turmoil in the world of sports.

Whatever happened to plain old applause too? We used to show our appreciation for a concert, a play, a speech by simply clapping. The longer the applause, the greater the appreciation. Now it seems we must also stand up! Now, I have nothing against standing ovations per se. In fact, I have participated in several of them myself. But I have also sat through some of them. Why? Because I believe standing ovations should be reserved for outstanding performances.

People used to dress up for special occasions...

People used to dress up for special occasions…

And whatever happened to dressing up? It seems the more affluent we’ve become, the sloppier we dress… And who invented the word (and the concept) of multi-tasking? Now we are expected to do several things at the same time. We eat, send a text, check our email, carry on a conversation with our spouse, and empty the dishwasher—all at the same time. Why can’t we enjoying doing ONE TASK at a time and doing it well without feeling guilty or inadequate?

And then there’s the way we use or misuse the English language. Some people say I could care less when they obviously mean I couldn’t care less.  The distinction between words such as lie (to rest or recline) and lay (to put or place) has gone by the wayside. But, to be honest, I can live with this change. I can let lie lie… and I can lay lay aside. Language is alive. It’s always changing. I accept that.

Whatever happened to thank you notes?

Whatever happened to thank you notes?

But whatever happened to thank you notes—any kind will do. Email, phone calls, or (the best ever) real thank you notes that you write in your own hand, slip into an envelope, stick a stamp on it, and send it through the mail? And whatever happened to………

I realize that some of the changes I’m lamenting are small and inconsequential. And if I’m going to lament, then I should lament the erosion of greater things such as these:

  • the assuming of personal responsibility for one’s action
  • having a sense for the common good…. being willing to personally sacrifice something for the benefit of the whole.

I realize I’m sounding like a cranky old lady here. If my tone is annoying you, I promise you this: In the future, I will write a blog on changes I applaud!

In this world of change, we seek a few constants. This song celebrates one great constant in our lives: God will not let go of us. This song is sung by Laura Story:

Are there some changes you lament? Are there changes you applaud?

Did any words from the song touch you today?

PS: This Saturday, April 23, I will be speaking at the Catholic Women’s Conference in the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts. My two talks are entitled “The Role of Wonder and Play in Our Spiritual Life” and “Is Mercy a Noun or a Verb?” I’m sharing the stage with Kathy Coffey, a writer from Denver whom I have admired for many years. I’m excited about meeting her. Thank you for your prayers for this day and for the almost 300 women expected to come!



No Comments

  1. Kathleen on April 18, 2016 at 5:46 am

    Interesting insights Sr. Melannie.

    I just received a thank you note from a young person in the mail over the weekend. It was delightful.


  2. John Hopkins on April 18, 2016 at 6:06 am

    Dear Sister Melanie,

    My sister-in-law also laments the chronic use of the expression “no problem.” She points out the two negatives that make up the phrase. She refuses to use it and sometimes alerts the speaker of said phrase of its hidden-in-plain sight negativity.

    As always, thank you!


  3. Rose on April 18, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Dear Sr. Melannie,
    Wonderful points and insights. Have you also noticed how applause has been replaced by hooting and hollering?

  4. Rosanne on April 18, 2016 at 9:23 am

    So many good points you made. I lament many of the same ones you do. How do these come to be and what can we do to change it… Blessings on your up-coming talk.

  5. Chris Keil on April 18, 2016 at 9:30 am

    Whatever happened to actually SINGING the National Anthem at a ball game? Now, it’s more of a performance and no one sings it anymore!

    • Beverly on April 19, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Amen!!!! It’s all about the singer not about our country.

  6. Marilyn T. Sabatino, S.N.D. on April 18, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Dear Melannie,

    I agree with your laments they are mine to and the little ones are just as importnat as the big ones because they lead up t the big laments..erosion happens over time….

    …..I see it all over and am particularly annoyed with the news casters..for me the professionalism of their position is erroding….the incorrect English, the slang, the slap happy mood….oh for the return of a Dorothy Fulthime ( spelling of their names may not be correct) or a Walter Cronkide.

    It is sad to say i have fallen into some myself and thank you for this wonderful reflection that reminds me to work on dropping the ( you guys, the no problem, catch you later, drop it off….etc.

    prayers for your presentation

    • Marjorie on April 18, 2016 at 10:56 am

      I agree about the newscasters. They were once the epitome of proper dress and proper English. As far as dress goes, I hate to pick on women, but it is mostly women who are offensive with cocktail dresses in place of business attire.

      I think eroding respect for others is the cause of many things we oldsters lament about today’s society.

  7. Ann Schmid on April 18, 2016 at 10:00 am

    I detest hearing “no problem” when it is his/her job to do it especially when it it used by waiters/waitresses and any service person. Melannie, I agree these are little things but need to be addressed, I think.
    Thank you for your blog and know of prayers for the 23rd especially.

  8. Jean Canatsey on April 18, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Just before I read this, I put a hand written thank you note in the mail. I lament the disappearance of real letters & greeting cards and I appreciate the handwritten letters I get from the many incarcerated men and women I correspond with. It warms my heart to find a letter in my mailbox and to sit with it physically in my hands, read it slowly and savor the words.

  9. Carl Shy on April 18, 2016 at 10:29 am

    I lament the widespread “Not in my backyard” response when something is proposed that will benefit people in need. This is just one of the many ways that so many in our country seem to have no sense of commitment to the common good.

  10. Sue on April 18, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I appreciate your article this week, Sr. Melannie! I too lament many of the same changes you describe. I also abhor the phrase “Have a good one.” A good one of what? I know I am from an era where good English grammar was a must. Sadly, the times are different. Thanks for your column each week!

  11. Barbara on April 18, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Sr. Melanie:
    While you say these changes are “small” (and in the course of life, I suppose they are), you are absolutely correct in being aware and making us aware of these slight differences. People could dress up if they choose to (I do!); people could use correct English if they so desired. They should. I read a book years ago, The Dumbing Down of America. It talks about all these things. It’s not good. As societal changes occur, some are good, some are not good. I for one will roll with the punches and be open-minded, but we know what is correct and what is not.

  12. Anne Busch on April 18, 2016 at 11:21 am

    I agree with you. I’m still a big believer in thank you cards. We’re losing the “art” of dressing up. Good manners never go out of style. Love your Monday Sunflower Seeds.

  13. Gail on April 18, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I guess i must be fortunate to know a lot of classy friends, thank you notes are still very much in use in my circle of friends for gifts, etc.
    But i too am a little tired of “no problem” which is way over used.

  14. Ann on April 18, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Another one from check out clerks: “how’s your day going, any plans”. I am probably older than you, and try to stay positive. All the things you noted are ” gripes” of mine also. Thanks!

  15. Ann Schmid on April 18, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    How about when there is a group of women and they are addressed as
    “You guys”?

  16. susie on April 18, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    I strongly agree with your comments. I wish more people would take the time to send thank you notes. Whenever I receive one it makes me feel special and that the person really appreciated whatever it was. I enjoy your Monday Sunflower Seeds. In fact I have passed them on.

  17. Patty on April 18, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    So true, so sad. Thank you, Sister.

  18. Jan on April 18, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    It made me feel a little less isolated to read all this. I am nearing my 62nd birthday and I almost feel like I just don’t “belong” anymore. One of the biggest laments for me is the overuse and abuse of social media sites like Facebook. Go into a waiting room and see how many people have their face buried in their phone, ignoring everyone and everything around them. Even at family gatherings, the young adults are more interested in their latest post than engaging in conversation!

  19. Linda on April 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    I always wear a dress or skirt when I am an Extraordinary minister of the Eucharistic. Twice I have been asked, why. Never thought I’d have to answer that question.

  20. Cathy on April 18, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Nice to get some things off our chests . . .
    I lament the angry, attack mode tone that is pervasive in public interactions. I spent a career not only teaching elementary students to read and write but also trying to develop their characters. Name-calling, yelling, finger-pointing, picking on personal characteristics were all events that received consequences in my classroom/school. I believed I was preparing children for responsible adulthood. Yet now children are exposed to these behaviors from even presidential candidates. Charitable, thoughtful discourse is countercultural . . . but maybe that is the point your reflection should leave with me. Thanks again, Sister.

  21. Barbara on April 18, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    A great blog from start to finish, Sister Melannie. I had a friend who constantly said, “I could care less,” which drove me crazy! At a retreat last summer, I heard multi-tasking described as’ a disease of our era’ … and that thought stayed with me. Too many people BOAST about multi-tasking! And yes, “No problem” is an inappropriate response whatever the situation … and I have to admit that I occasionally find myself saying it and always wish that I could bite back the words. Thank you for a delightful read. I always look forward to your Monday posts.

  22. Val on April 18, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you for speaking the list ‘out loud’ I agree with you an also agree with the comment about being addressed as ‘you guys’. It is a real hair raising way of addressing people.

  23. Karen on April 18, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    You’ve definitely struck a nerve based on my reaction and the other responders. The list could go on and on … How about hair nets for food servers? Opening doors for someone older than you? Being able to listen and remember a list or an order of several items?
    That being said, I have to give shout out to my husband, who has the ability to be totally single tasking. Sometimes it drives me crazy, since I am definitely a multi-tasked, but I have to appreciate his ability to focus and not get distracted!
    I so enjoy your weekly insights and the sense of community you foster.

  24. Rosemary on April 18, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Dear Sister Melanie,
    As always, your topics begin my week on a positive reflection! You must have been reading my mind today…as you touched on the things that annoy me most…. I could still add a few I love receiving cards or letters in the mail and send quite a few myself. I call them “paper hugs”.
    People are losing the art of communication as far as voice and body language. If it is texting or email, you have no idea of the mood of the sender. Are they just joking, or really angry at you??? Face to face or on the phone saves a lot of misunderstandings. Bless you for all you share!!

  25. Beverly on April 19, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Loved the song! It is always good to be reminded that God does not let go. It gives me great peace to remain in that thought.

  26. Melannie Svoboda SND on April 19, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Dear All,
    Thank you to all who responded to this reflection. Wow! I guess I did “hit a nerve” for some of you. I’m glad I could be a forum for you to express some of the changes you lament in life. Yes, change is an element of life. But so is constancy. I guess we have to determine what things we must let go of and what things we must cling to because they are values we cherish. Thanks again for writing. I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Sr. Melannie

  27. Tom on April 19, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Dear “Cranky Old Lady” (just kidding),
    While I lament and get irritated by many of the foibles that have been related, I can’t believe what confining boundaries we took for granted in the good old days when we were all so pleasant and respectful to one another.
    Who else but white men speaking Midwestern American English would have the credentials to be newscasters? Who would ever buy a new car from a woman, no less take seriously her rundown of a sports event?
    It ain’t what it used to be, but maybe in the bigger picture that’s not so bad.

  28. Paul on April 20, 2016 at 8:07 am

    I learned of your blog from reading and following the Living Faith publication. I must say this is the first blog I have followed and enjoy it. I agree with a lot of “whatever happened scenarios”

    And yes the Laura Story song “He will not let go” is very comforting, peaceful and reassuring.

  29. Beverly Palumbo, RSM on April 21, 2016 at 10:05 am

    God will not let go…..we need to keep modeling Jesus…the Gospel….one person at a time…God bless….blessings on your Sat. Event….

  30. Trish on April 21, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I too learned of your blog from reading Living Faith (in the Uk). There was a short resume’ at the bottom of the piece you wrote for 20 April so I decided to have a look. I do agree there’s a number of things these days that niggle and I think “it never used to be like that, we were never allowed to do that….” But I suppose we must try to be positive and think of all the things that have improved or been invented that improve our lives now.

  31. Martine on April 22, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Thank you, your thoughts are so very true. I loved your statement about multitasking. I agree just do one thing at a time, where is your mind and heart when you are doing so many??

  32. Bridget Jirka Barelka '76 on May 18, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Sr. Melannie;

    A year ago last May, I started some really deep thinking; about the way I used to be, the religious joy I felt, the close prayer life I had. And, at 61 years, it was pretty much gone. The Mass that I loved in the vernacular, the shared Peace, the receiving communion in the hand, the guitar music, was still there, but I wasn’t feeling the joy. I was feeling the distractions of people talking through the Mass, kids not paying any attention to what was going on, shredding the bulletins and envelopes, and parents not caring. One parent told me to complain to her, and not talk to her child!!! I had pretty deep bone and joint pain, lots of surgeries, injections, physical therapy. So I went back to my roots. Pope John Paul II resurrected the Latin Mass, and I found St. Anne’s in San Diego. It saved my spiritual life. Dressing up for Mass, head coverings, communion rail, Latin, brought everything back. I looked at what I had done with my life, and went to confession for the first time in at least 25 years. It has really changed my thoughts on suffering, sacrifice, charity, prayer, living a Christ-like life! Even though this blog piece is a month old, it was what I was meant to read and respond to. Thanks so much for all your work; I am always inspired by your joy, and was sorry to read about your own pain issues. Great things ahead!!!

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