In the past when asked to write a thank you note for a gift, I once heard, “Mom, nobody does that anymore.” My answer to that was, “Well, maybe they should.”
We live in a day when most people use a text to say thank you…if they even say it at all. While I think any act of gratitude is commended, in my opinion there is just something very personal and special about a hand-written note.
My friend, Nancy Waldo, has taken a similar journey as mine recently. Just a few of the many things we have in common is our husbands have had cancer and we responded similarly to the overwhelming and incredible acts of kindness bestowed upon us from our many wonderful, godly friends.
Just this morning she shared about how writing thank you notes has had a positive impact on her life. I believe the world could greatly benefit from this needed message so I want to share it now with you, my readers. This is a longer post than normal, but please take the time to read this. You will be blessed! Nancy writes…
I look at the card one more time, slip it in the envelope, lick the back edge, press it shut and set it to the side. Another batch of “thank you” notes are ready to hit the mail. I set the pen down and finger the stack. I’ve been thinking a lot about thankfulness and what it looks like. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it in these past 8 months. The Lord has been teaching me much about it in this past ½+ year.
I must backtrack and say that writing “thank you” notes has been a part of my life since I was a kid. My mom use to laugh and say that she has no idea where writing these came from because she doesn’t think that she taught it to me. Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t, I don’t remember. I remember that the first time someone did something kind for me, I sat down and immediately wrote a child’s note of thankfulness (I suspect it had a lot of errors in it). I remember the person being touched by my note and saying so. I think it was there, in that young heart and mind, that gratitude was truly born.
I continued to write notes to people throughout my growing up years. I remember writing a bunch at graduation. When I got married, the “thank you” notes nearly did me in, however. There were so many to do, it took me nearly a year to complete all of them. I almost grew to hate writing them, at that time. And yet, I was grateful for each gift, whether big or small that came to us. I was touched by their kindnesses.
When the boys began to read and write, I taught them to do “thank you” notes. At first, they were the simplest of notes. “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the gift. Love, Andrew.” With each year, (and with the transition to homeschooling) I taught them the proper ways to write a “thank you”: date, salutation, opening paragraph, body of the text, closing paragraph, and signature. Sometimes there were complaints about doing the notes. I would always remind them that if someone took the time and effort to give a gift, they could take the time to write a thank you. Also, if it was that big a bother to them, they could always return the gift (with an explanation, of course). (“What a great come back Nancy!”- Gaye) They never opted to return a single gift. Their notes got creative and interesting over the years. Some of those notes surface from time to time. Age 12: “April 3, 1998 Dear Grandma, How are you? I am fine. Do you still have snow where you live? [she lived in the Adirondacks] Thank you for the gift of birthday money. I am putting some in the bank to save for a car [they were only 12 and saving for a car] and I also bought some Legos [of course!]. Thank you for thinking of me. We miss you and hope we will see you this summer. We love you. Love your favorite grandson, Timothy…PS Just kidding”
However, back to present day, as the first days of diagnosis came to us, we began to receive an outpouring of love so kind and generous that we were humbled (and surprised). Not being able to remember everything that was going on around us in those early days and fearful that we would forget some kindness (which we probably did anyway), we purchase our little blue notebook. In it we wrote 3 sections: Bible verses that people sent us, prayer requests of other people’s needs, and a section for names and gifts of kindness. There were a variety of gifts and helps. Some people were so creative in their giving.
At the beginning of each treatment week, Dave and I would arm ourselves with things to keep us busy for the 4-5 hours that we sat while life-saving treatment was administered to Dave. Dave brought his computer, magazines and paperwork. I brought embroidery, magazines and writing materials. We brought lunch with us. The two of us would look like street people loaded down with bags as we passed the examining rooms and the lab. Always, always on those first days each treatment week, after Dave was situated and I took my place beside him with an ever-watchful eye, I would get out the little blue notebook, notecards, and my pen. I held a magazine on my lap and I would write out “thank you” notes. At first, the written notes were me just trying to show appreciate for the help coming our way. As each treatment week came around, I would once again take out the blue notebook and begin writing. I’m not sure when it happened, when the light began to dawn, when a new truth began to come through my brain….the “thank you” notes were not just for the giver BUT were for us, as well.
You see, when I would look in the notebook and see who I was thanking, there was a few seconds that I would recall when the gift came in & how it was useful to us. I would begin to formulate how I wanted to say, “thank you.” I began to see how writing in the little notebook, taking the time to formulate what I wanted to say, reflecting on the gift itself & the giver gave me an opportunity to be thankful at each step of the writing process. Each step gave me one more opportunity to appreciate the thoughtfulness, the kindness, and the sacrifice of the giver. It changed writing thank you’s from a need-to-do to a want-to-do job. Each gift was given with love and care. My use of words took on a greater care as I desired to truly express what Dave and I were feeling, not just saying thank you. Dave often mentioned something he wanted included in the notes and I read each of my outgoing notes to him.
It made me realize that all the years I was teaching my sons the art of saying thank you, I was really teaching them the art of being thankful. For it is in the disciplines of life that we learn something: how to walk, how to play soccer, table manners,… being thankful.
This year God taught me the art of real thankfulness, real gratitude. He taught me how thinking of the giver and their thoughtfulness also teaches me to be a thoughtful giver. He showed me how each note drew my heart closer to friends and family, knit our hearts together. It also made me wonder: how often do I thank my Heavenly Father for all He has done for me? Do I say thank you when He answers a panic-stricken prayer? Do I act truly grateful when He sends wonderful surprises my way? Or is most of my communication with Him a want list and complaints?
As in the case of my sons, starting on the road to a truly thankful heart starts with discipline, a pad of paper and a pen. “Dear God, thank you for a warm house today, Love Nancy.” Then as time goes on and I practice small sentences of gratitude, I might think more about the giver and my words might take on a more intimate tone. “Heavenly Father, This morning as I got up, I peeked through the blinds and saw the most beautiful sunrise casting lovely shadows on the snow. God, you have made such a beautiful world. I took a picture of it. I loved it. Thank you for beautiful sunrises. I love you. Your grateful daughter, Nancy.” You see, by writing down my thankfulness, I get another chance to reflect on what He’s done. Anyway, I hope that I continue to learn things from this time in the valley…..and I hope I can be grateful.
Philippians 1:3-4 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.
Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Ephesians 5:19-20 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you SO much Nancy for sharing your heart with us and teaching us as God teaches you!
I did a group Bible study once about the attitude of gratitude. We talked about how people felt about receiving a thank you note that was months or even years overdue. One lady said she received a thank you note for a wedding gift that she had given about three years prior to receiving the note. This note was especially meaningful to her because she knew the bride still remembered her kind gesture. So it’s never too late to write that note!
So let’s not let this note writing go out of style! Who’s with me?
Keep looking up,