In a child’s earlier years, the first and probably most important piece of information learned is the answer to the question, “What’s the magic word?” Close behind, if not as equally vital to one’s formation of character, answer to a is the parent’s nudge, “What do you say?”

These days “Please?” and “Thank you!” seem to be relics from generations prior to the Baby Boomers, the Me Generation, Gen X, Y and whatever we are morphing into currently.

As they say about today’s economy, “There is enough blame to go around” for the loss of such simple civilities. But when one thinks it through, two culprits keep popping up: entitlement and instant gratification.

The former is an attitude that seems to be a by-product of a booming economy in which “keeping up with the Joneses” is not so much a struggle or a reach as it is a way of life.

Why say “Please?” when one feels he or she has a right to an iPod or Air Jordan’s “because … well, because Jeannie and Jake have them.” Why say “Please?” when one believes their parents owe them, or Grandma will get them what they want anyway?

It is just the way things happen when times are good. It is then especially when entitlement is more than an expectation; it almost demands the fulfillment of an obligation.

Instant gratification, the other culprit, is a need that can short-circuit any thought of saying “Thank you!” Wanting whatever now, not later, may be attributable to the “hurried child” phenomenon or an Internet mindset or just the pace of modern life.

Getting whatever instantly often leaves the giver shortchanged. Obviously, that need is closely related to the attitude of entitlement. In both cases, something precious is lost. Fortunately, there is Thanksgiving.

These past few months have not been good for anyone’s entitlements. The economic downtown, well, plunge, has elicited many cries of “Please?” here and across the globe. “Let it stop!” “Fix it!”

“Save my home! My pension! My Sep/IRA! Please?” It is not quite the context in which our parents taught us the magic word but lessons are being learned.

This year the timing of Thanksgiving could not be better. Instant gratification has suddenly become a luxury item. Many whatevers are not to be had, so there is ample opportunity to be grateful – and say so!

We are fortunate to live in a Fatherland/Motherland where one day every year all of us the get nudge, “What do you say?”

Despite these frightening times, for all that we have been given, especially for those we love and those who love us, and for the country that is our home, I for one say “Thank you!”

So say we all?