It’s amazing how two little words make all the difference. Two? I know, you are thinking the big three: I Love You. But arguably there are two that, I think, might be even more important at times.

So it was a Wednesday afternoon, as my children got off the school bus with a little boy I have never seen before. His name is Sam, and the kids ask if he could stay at our house for a little bit. It seems Sam missed his stop and had nowhere to go.

In comes Sam and stays for a few hours, playing with my kids. Unable to reach his mother, and having not heard from her (and having no idea who she is), I am a bit perplexed.

Was it possible that his mother actually had the gall to pick him up without so much as a word?Sam then eats dinner with us, and as I go into the living room to check on something, I discover Sam is no longer in the house.

Was it possible that his mother actually had the gall to pick him up without so much as a word? Without even introducing herself? Without thanking me?!? I was livid. I stormed into my husband’s office ranting and raving at the utter chutzpah of this woman. I entertained her child, I helped him with his homework, I fed him dinner, and nada.

And all I was looking for was a simple “thank you.” Two words.

The word for “thanks” in Hebrew, todah, comes from the same root as hodayah, which means “acknowledgement.” To thank someone means to be aware of what they did for you. To be aware of the gifts we have. This is why the first thing a Jew is to say upon waking in the morning is modeh, which means “thank You”—for restoring my soul, for giving me another day.

So simple, yet so transformative.

Without her thanks, I was irate. I felt taken advantage of. I had no desire to help her in any way again.

And then the phone rang.

A woman on the other end introduced herself as Sam’s mother. She felt terrible that she had not been able to introduce herself in person earlier, but when she came to the door I was on the phone, and she hadn’t wanted to disturb me. She continued that she had just given birth two weeks ago, and her newborn was in the car screaming and needing to be fed. She had been stuck with him at a doctor’s appointment, and that was why she was so late.

She continued how sorry she was. How grateful she was. And she said more “thank you”s in five minutes than most people say in a year.

And me? Well, of course I understood. And terrible I did feel for having thought (and screamed) such unpleasantries about her!

So what did I say in response?

Without her thanks, I was irate“Please let me know how I can be of help . . . Anytime you need anything, just call . . . Seriously, it was my pleasure.”

And I meant them all.

Now that I had received that “thank you,” I would have given her the world. That was all it took. Two words.

Yes, I realize that the higher road is to do the good deed without the need for thanks. But for those of us not quite yet there, never forget the difference our gratitude can make!