I am definitely sending thank-you notes this year.
I'm not in the most organically grateful state at the moment. My school experience ended in a less than joyful way. Money is super-tight. We had to plan a reunion for 120 people today that required a lot of effort from my dad's side of the family, all while we are coping with the worst stressor, that my little grandma's health has taken a sudden, serious turn for the worse since Thanksgiving.
And yet, there was a holiday, coming as it does with family and friends, kindnesses offered and tangible gifts exchanged. People were generous to me for graduation, for birthday, for Christmas. My friends and family have been there for me during a difficult time. And so, on paper and in person (and yes, on a computer screen, if I must) I should and will say "thank you."
I honestly can't remember the last time I received a thank-you note, because I just don't keep track. I'm not one to sit around after the wedding and obsess over whether the couple sent me a note of thanks. I also (oops) cannot remember the last time I sent one, and I'm not counting dashed-off e-mail thanks for lunch or a chat or whatever else. It's certainly not that I'm ungrateful. I'm a profuse verbal thanker. I am a much better giver than receiver in some ways - I love picking out gifts for people and there are few things I enjoy more than choosing something that turns out to be really appreciated and appropriate. I'm a little less comfortable reacting to things chosen for me, for whatever reason. But I am 95 percent of the time, unless the gift is incredibly inappropriate or obviously an afterthought, very appreciative of anyone going out of their way for me, to spend money or time or thought.
Meaningful thank-yous go beyond the trite, fill-in-the-blank kind of stuff, the "this will look lovely in our kitchen" kind of thing. And I honestly believe that for many people the block against sending them - besides the numbing prospect of going offline and venturing into the scary world of paper and postage - is because of their potential cover-letter quality. Acknowledging gifts or good deeds the right way - at least as far as I'm concerned - takes some time, and it's often time that gets eaten up doing more pressing things, like checking Twitter 200 times an hour, yeah.
And in a world where our closest people are also often our most under-rated and under-thanked, a little time spent on gratitude is worth the effort.
The awesome Amy Turn Sharp of Doobleh-vay is big on paper and pencil thank-you notes. She also had one of the coolest ideas I've seen in awhile:
***Here is a simple and fun way to make thank you notes for those little ones who cannot yet write a proper thank you.
1. Take a photo of child with gift.
2. Ask the child how the gift makes them feel.
3. Write that sentiment on the blackboard along with thank you.
4. Print photo and include with simple handwritten child signature or scribble scrabble.
Check out her post for some examples. This idea would work for big kids too, and I'm definitely going to give it a test-drive.
Katie, an American living in Berlin, and her husband just did, and posted the results in her Making This Home blog, as part of a "Greener Christmas Guide." They skip the snail mail part and just send the photos of them with their gifts attached to e-mailed thank-you notes.
I know what you’re thinking. How lame. How impersonal. But not so! I think it’s one thing to say, “Oh I love it!” It’s another thing entirely to show it. After all: A picture is worth a thousand words.
Dr. Michele Borba at iVillage's Parenting Secrets blog has some other ideas for encouraging kids to send thank-yous. A thank you video for grandma or your best friend? Sure.
Umma at Spices of Life says that handwritten is the way to go.
Anyone can send an email, but finding a nice piece of stationery or note card, handwriting our thanks, finding a stamp (who has those anymore?), and then getting to a mailbox to actually send it goes above and beyond in expressing our gratitude.
We are going to make this the last "gift" that we open on Christmas, and as a family we will unpack the box and look at the concrete examples of favor and blessing and peace and joy that we have been blessed with. I hope that this will become a highlight of my children's Christmas traditions, and that in the years to come, we will choose our year's marker together. I hope that one day when my kids get married, that this will be a gift that I can give to them - an empty box that is theirs to fill with treasured momentos that help them reflect on God's gifts to them.
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