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Long Live Thank You Notes

May 8, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

If we can't be bothered to write a real thank you note, how grateful are we really?

In the age of email, does anyone write thank you notes anymore? Are thank you notes just an anachronistic holdover from our parent's or grandparent's time or do they continue to have real relevance?

Nancy Kirk, 61, believes they still play a meaningful role in our lives. She recommends writing one a day.

"If you can't think of one person to thank every day, you aren't paying attention."

We have so much to be grateful for; a hasty email suggests we probably don't fully appreciate it. The email can be typed and the send button hit before we've even had time to assimilate the idea behind it.

But if we handwrite a thank you note, we are forced to stop and think. What kindness did we receive? From who? Why? How do we express what it meant to us?

Only through our own investment of time and thought are we able to truly be grateful.

This is a lesson we all need to take to heart. When we receive a thank you note, we know we feel appreciated -- whether we sent a gift, cooked a meal, or helped out at an event. The note says "I noticed" and "I appreciate it." The note says "Your kindness means something, you mean something."

Not saying thank you betrays a sense of entitlement, a self-centered expectation of what is due me. This is not the road to closeness with other human beings or with our Creator. Yet through such a simple action as writing a thank you note, we can bridge the distance.

Our children particularly need to learn this skill. A sincere THK U can not be conveyed through a text message. You liked the presents? Now sit down and write the notes. (I did once allow a child with atrocious handwriting to dictate the notes to his sister who was willing to actually write them for a small fee!) Figure out what to say, try to vary them slightly -- and make them personal.

Were they at your celebration? Did you enjoy having them there? Were they unable to attend? Did you miss them? Was their gift just what you needed? Did they make you a meal after you gave birth? Do you want the recipe for that delicious corn dish?

Doing acts of kindness requires careful thought as to the real needs of the recipient; appreciating them demands no less.

The more custom-tailored the note, the more personal. The more the note is written with thoughtfulness and consideration, then the more the giver feels appreciated.

And thank you notes are better for us. We appreciate more and understand more deeply the kindness done for us when we have to take the time to express it in words.

The effort: one thank you note a day. The ultimate benefit: priceless.

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