The Lost Art of Thank You Notes

My grandmother practically lived to write thank you notes, or so it seemed. Upon arriving at her memorial service at her senior residence this past February, the music director, David, who played several hymns during the small gathering, shared after the service that he had never received so many thank you notes, and so many from one person.

He ran back to his office and returned, slightly winded, holding a stack of them on simple notepaper, no envelopes. Like a kid in a candy store, he read off a few, “Thank you for playing the showtunes last Tuesday. It was uplifting and joyful. You have a way with music!”

“Thank you for playing ‘It is well with my soul.’ Just lovely.”

He counted 20 notes in two years. Nearly one a month.

On and on these notes sang of my grandmother’s gratitude and impressed upon me the effect simple displays of thanks could have on another person.

I too have a file filled with thank you notes from her, and from others. Birthday cards and ‘just because’ cards – I used to pull out the file when I was feeling blue in order to lift my spirits and remind myself that I have many people who care about me in my life.

But I haven’t received too many of these notes or cards in recent years. I haven’t sent many either, so I guess that makes me a part of the problem.

photo-1414919823178-e9d9d0afd0acAfter seeing how my grandmother’s notes affected David, it made me want to recommit to writing more thank you notes. Just to watch how these authentic joy-filled notes made David feel appreciated was really fantastic to behold.

I started writing in journals to my older two kids; journals I’ve had for them since they were babies but had sadly, only been written in a few times. Now, I aim to write them notes when I’m proud of them, or when we’ve had an argument.

The power of written word is monumental; words – written down, by hand or by computer – have a way of making us stop, take notice, sit down even, and ponder.

Do we need more time to stop and reminisce? More time to pause and be grateful? More moments to consider the abundance of all the good in our lives?

I think so.

According to the Emily Post Institute, “It’s always correct to send handwritten thank-you’s, and people always appreciate them. Handwritten notes are warmer and more personal than a phone call or email, and only second best to thanking someone in person. The general rule is: If you open a gift in the presence of the giver, then your verbal thanks are sufficient.”

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I remember fondly (okay, maybe not that fondly) a time as a girl when my mother would give me a stack of notecards and set me to writing thank you notes for every Christmas gift. At first, it always seemed like drudgery, but then, mysteriously, something would happen. I would begin enjoying the process and find myself feeling even more grateful for the people in my life who gave me gifts.

Who doesn’t enjoy getting a hand-written note in the mail? I don’t know a soul who hates it. In fact, as people send fewer and fewer personalized notes in the mail, it becomes the highlight of the day, if not the week, to get a personal invitation or thank you card in the mail.

What was once a common Emily Post guideline to send thanks via a hand written note, is now seemingly a lost art.

Let’s admit that being grateful (and showing it) is a good thing.

Let’s try to be present in the moment, take stock, be real, and be grateful . . . and send someone you care about a thank you note today.

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