Friday, April 29, 2011

The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

 I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  ~G.K. Chesterton
My Aunt Lillian, at age 96, remains to this day a firm believer in the thank you note. As a kid, every Christmas or birthday would be marked by a neatly wrapped package containing a carefully chosen outfit or a card with a $25 check and a note inside which always ended "hello to your mother and sister".  It was as predictable as the fact that everywhere Aunt Lillian goes, she brings her signature homemade brownies wrapped in tinfoil. She celebrates every occasion with the same brownies she has made since I was born, and I am sure long before that. And just as predictably, after each holiday my parents would remind me to write Aunt Lillian a thank you note, with the same unrelenting nagging that would generally be reserved for making my bed or doing the dishes. Each time, they would recant the same story about the one year that my California cousins did not thank Aunt Lillian. The following Christmas, my always kind and cheerful Aunt Lillian sent nothing to go under their tree. I never understood what the big deal was or why my parents would insist on reminding me over and over of the one time in her 96 years that my Aunt Lillian did something mean.

I think I get it now.

At teacher orientation this year, we recieved cubes with inspirational phrases or words on each side. Mine had the words "hope", "wish & dream", "inspire", "speak kindly", and "give thanks". That last side got me to thinking. Every time I looked at it, I thought of Thanksgiving. I had never heard that phrase outside of the month of November, and here it was, September 1st; I'm wearing shorts and flip flops, still in full-on summer mode, and we're talking about November holidays already? I'm not ready for this.

I received a letter in the mail yesterday from my step brother, who is far away at the moment. I miss him dearly, but life is hectic and times are tough, and sometimes we just don't have the time to call up the people we care about. And chances are, those people don't always have the same block of free time to chat that we do. So life moves on, and time passes too fast, and before we know it, we've lost touch with people. It happens. So I was surprised to receive the letter, and in it, my brother told me about a book he had read recently about a singer, which reminded him of a concert we had gone to together almost a year ago now, and he just wanted to tell me what a great time he had had and to thank me for being there.

That letter was bittersweet. It made my day, and while it made me miss my step brother who is so far away, and made me think of my older brother, Warren. Warren lost a short battle with leukemia 5 years ago and was also a big fan of giving thanks. He made everyone feel important and valued by always making a point to notice the positives and point them out. He said thank you. There are so many times that I want to call him and say "thank you for inspiring me/making my day/making me appreciate things I otherwise wouldn't notice/teaching me how to make awesome pasta/being my big brother, etc." But I can't. Either way, the handwritten letter I received yesterday really made my day. I had no idea that whatever it was I had done last August had made an impact on someone else's day, but it felt really good to hear that it did.

So I decided to pay it forward. Our PTO president had graciously offered to help organize our Arts Night which took place two days ago, and she took care of all the paperwork and red tape that I had just finished going through for Art in the Valley and didn't want to have to do all over again. She made my life a million times easier. So I went out and got a thank you card, and wrote her a short note, letting her know how much her efforts were appreciated. Placing the card in her mailbox made me feel every bit as good as though I were receiving it myself. The more we take time to express our gratitude, not only do we bring happiness to others, but it will always come back to us. So why not do it more? Who can you take a minute of your time to thank today?

No comments:

Post a Comment