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Greek-American Stories: Thankless Thanks

At Dixon’s that Sunday afternoon, Yiannis informed the others seated that he volunteered to read an excerpt from the Bible at church next Sunday.

“Looks like Father Apostoli had trouble locating anyone for that reading this time. So…” he leaned back in his seat, contentedly. “…I told him that I’d be glad to do it. He said that this particular Sunday, congregants will submit messages of gratitude to be read aloud. He asked if I’d be willing to do that, too. I told him I’d like that very much.”

“What kind of messages?” asked a curious Kipreos. Dimos, recalling it had been done last year, explained. “People write ‘thank you’ notes in appreciation for something a parishioner had done for someone. And, they’re read aloud after the sermon. My wife had sent a crystal vase to the senior center. Her friend filled it with flowers. I heard a ‘thank you’ read for both of them from the senior group the very next Sunday.” George eyed Yiannis and asked, “did you ever write a note of thanks for anything, Yiannis?” Sending up his head, Yiannis responded that he’d never had an occasion for it. “What about the avgolemono soup my wife and the food the other ladies sent Areti when she was ill?” Pausing, he added, “while you ate at the diner – free.”  Yiannis thought for a long minute. Then said, “Oh, that! Well, I reminded Areti to telephone your good wife with her thanks for that.” Then, he added, “I ate at the diner because there wasn’t enough soup for me, too.” With a smug look, he turned away. But, George remembered another neglected service. About to remind him, John interceded.

 “I wrote a note thanking your wife and her friend for buying the flowers from my store that day. And, they chose only the best and most expensive blooms.” George sipped his coffee with deliberate ease while listening to them discussing the various notes sent. Kipreos, who had sent a tray of scones to the same church, had heard a note read about that. “I was glad to do it, too!” he added. George, not a churchgoer, informed them that if that’s the case, he’d attend next Sunday’s church service.

That Sunday was sunny, promising an early Spring as the congregants filed into church, taking up the pews. After the regular service was over Yiannis took his place at the altar where he opened the book and read a paragraph from the Bible. Then, he opened an envelope that spilled with little notes from the congregants. Prideful, Yiannis opened the first one and read aloud, “a faithful member of our church wishes to thank the ladies club for the beautifully knitted baby clothes that are going to be sent to a poor village. A check for five dollars is included for the postage. Bravo, madam.” Then, he opened another and read, “I wish to thank whoever sent me the pet bed for my new dog. Also, thank you for the carton of dog food.” The next note read, “Someone from this church sent to my house a beautiful quilt and a box of chocolates for my Yiayia’s name day. Many, many thanks from yiayia.” Yiannis, smiling, looked up, looking ethereal. “What worthy and generous people we have here among us in our church.” 

George and the others waited to hear him announce his thanks for the food sent to Areti when she was ill. But, he said nothing. About to step down from the altar Yiannis noticed a note that had been recently placed on the altar desk. He paused. “Wait a minute! Here’s another note I didn’t see. We don’t want to ignore anyone. So, just a minute and we’ll hear what another good Christian has to say.” Everyone paused to listen. Yiannis cleared his throat and read. “It says, ‘Yiannis, you owe a thank you to the men who volunteered to paint your kitchen. You also owe twenty dollars for the paint. Show the congregants your good faith and…” Looking dazed and crimson faced, he forced a grin as he dug a trembling hand into his pocket and waved a twenty dollar bill into the air. Nodding his approval George joined the others as Yiannis carefully replaced the bill back into his pocket.

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This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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