Are Thank-You Notes Still Relevant?

Do you remember when you were first learning to print or write as a youngster and your parents made you handwrite thank-you notes? I sure do. Especially after my bat mitzvah (at age 13), I recall having to handwrite dozens of thank-you notes, mostly to my parents’ friends, who had generously gifted something to me. Then when there was a wedding shower, and baby showers, there seemed like hundreds of thank-you notes to write.

Especially when I was in my teens, it felt as if it was a burden to write the notes, and I recall going through the motions of writing the same message: “Dear Person, Thank you for the lovely gift you gave me. I will use it.”

When my two daughters were growing up, I taught them that showing sincere gratitude by writing thank-you notes in a timely fashion was proper etiquette. They humored me by writing them, and oftentimes I sat with them while they wrote the notes, as a means of showing support for the tedious task.

Fast forward to now. I am the gift giver. Seems like all my family’s and friends’ kids are having lifecycle events—showers, weddings and babies. It’s easy to know what to give as a gift, as there are now multiple websites to facilitate registering for what you want.

In a time when sending a gift is a “click” away, it is rare that you go in person to make a purchase, wrap the gift yourself, and hand-deliver it to the recipient and get to see the look on their face when they open the gift. So, I have found that those handwritten thank-you notes have more meaning to me.

In fact, I admit I get a little edgy when I don’t receive a thank-you note in a timely manner. During the last year, I have noticed that a few of the people I have sent gifts to either took an extraordinary amount of time to send a thank-you note, or didn’t send one at all. When I noticed myself getting uptight about not getting a note, I really had to ask myself—was receiving acknowledgement really that important? I realized that since I could not give the gift in person, I actually wondered if they got it. Once I knew it was received, then I found myself wondering about the person’s manners.

Were they taught, like my kids were, that writing thank-you notes was expected? Did they ever think of what it was like from the perspective of the gift giver to wonder if their gift was received and/or appreciated?

That’s when I decided just to let those feelings go. I desire to be that person that gives a gift because it makes ME feel good, and because I want to “make someone’s day” with a special, useful or wanted gift. I am not giving a gift with the expectation of getting a thank-you note.

That has made it much more fun for me to gift to people.

On the flip side, I have decided that one of the “gifts” I can give, is to write notes to family and friends. Many times these notes or cards are unexpected. They are not for any reason, other than to show my personal gratitude to someone. That act of putting in writing my feelings about someone—and then mailing it—has actually started to give me joy! (One of my favorite occasions to do this is for Mother’s Day, when I send cards to many of my family and friends who are moms.)

Have you ever thought about the effect you have on someone when you write them a personal note, sometimes for no reason at all? It actually can make someone’s day.

And in case you’re wondering what inspired this blogpost … although I was not invited to the very small wedding of one of my friend’s daughters, I decided to send a wedding gift. The gift (some of their dishes and glassware) was on backorder, so they received a constant stream of packages from me over a two-week period. Each time an item shipped, I received notification, so I knew they were receiving it. But I never received a written thank-you note.

That was until this past weekend. I was at a birthday celebration for my friend and her daughter came up to me right away. She gave me a huge hug and thanked me profusely for the stream of dishes and glasses I had sent, and she admitted that her thank-you note was way overdue. But it had been mailed just the day before. When the thank-you note arrived on Monday, it made me chuckle and smile. Her note said, “It seems I have perfected the art of procrastination … in writing this thank-you note!”

Is there a thank-you note you have been meaning to write? Make someone’s day and write it now!

Karen