Thank You Notes – From Bother to Blessing

I’ve been out of town for a few days and as I sit at my desk this morning, the daily TO DO list facing me, I see the list of names under the words “Thank You” and know I need to get busy.


Mom had a thing about thank-you.  Small things like a plate of cookies a neighbor left on the porch, someone giving me a ride home from school when it rained, or receiving a very nice card were thanked by phone. Gifts, birthday, Christmas, or otherwise, required thank-you notes, and since I was the only child of a mother who was the oldest of eight and the rest of the family lived 2,000 miles away, I had many occasions calling for a handwritten, sincere and appropriate, note, with my best penmanship.


I knew about writing letters. Mom wrote a lot of letters to friends and family and received a lot of letters in return, each filled with news about family and jobs and children and church and gardens and whatever else made up daily life in Mississippi or Tennessee.


Thank you notes were different. I hated to write them. What should I say? What should I write about? It didn’t come easily. I had to stop what I was doing and, with mom watching me, write to each person on a list of gift givers, carefully thinking out what to say, being sure mom would approve.  I had to address the envelope neatly and put a return address on it.  All of this done in my best handwriting. I struggled.


Near high school graduation many of us began receiving congratulatory cards with cash or checks inside.  “Thanks for the money” seemed cold.  Friends said they wrote something like: “Thank you for remembering me. I’ll be registering for college soon and will add your gift to that account.” That helped a bit.


Years later I learned a secret.  One segment of Total Quality Management training involved thanking people.  Say thank you, be specific, tell them the benefit, and repeat thanks.  We were to practice.  It was humorous as I told people the benefit, even if all I said was that I valued being able to count on them to complete work on time.  Some people couldn’t believe that I was taking the time to say more than the customary “Thanks”.  Ah, a formula!  Wouldn’t that work for a written note also? Yes!


We hold an open house each holiday season.  I don’t turn down offers of help when anyone asks what they can bring. We say “no gifts please”, but still the bottles of wine, boxes of candy, and other things arrive.  I keep a notepad and pen by the door and ask helpers to please get a name and what they brought when food arrives.  I’ve often written 35 notes in the days following the party.  One year, a few months after the party, I needed to ask someone a huge favor at the last minute.  The reply, “For someone who takes the time to hand write thank-you notes?  Absolutely”.


Last month, in a SWAG bag I put together for a Chamber of Commerce event, I included 5 simple note cards with matching envelopes among the other items.  The table was sponsored by a pediatric cancer charity and they wanted me to emphasize how thankful parents are for any help they receive.  My job was to explain why things were in the bag. About the note cards I explained that even if you only have time to say “Thank for picking up milk and bread for us. It helped us have a good dinner”.  This month one of the people who had been at the table told me how much those note cards and my comments meant. She had ordered cards with the corporate logo and was using them for all types of thanks.  Isn’t it nice to hear that you’ve made a difference?


Thank you for reading my article about thank-you notes and ideas about how to write them.  I enjoy writing and value the time others take to read what I write.  Thanks again.


Every Day Is A Good Day – VJ

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