Thank you notes?

This is Dr. Chris. I’m looking for simple every day habits that I can translate into changes for me and the world. What’s your gratitude habit? How do you say Thank You?

Do you look forward to getting the mail? Until recently snail mail was how we received news, announcements, invitations, and my favorite: thank you notes. Today, communications is with most going paperless, snail mail mostly brings catalogs and campaign flyers. But every once in a while I see familiar penmanship on a small envelop that could only be a thank you note. I LOVE thank you notes. Receiving and writing them.

I think they’re a really big deal – like crucial-to-the-future-of-the-free-world—kind of a big deal! Imagine my response to the thank you postcard I received that was mass-produced with the same computer generated message and signature mailed to every gift giver. I was glad that this person made the gesture of giving thanks, but its execution felt impersonal, obligatory and left me feeling a little sad and under-appreciated.

Why do I have such a strong reaction (I’m so upset!) to the demise of this once expected and accepted practice? Am I so needy that I crave the “thank you” praise? Do I give a gift expecting to be thanked?  I sure hope not. No, it goes so much deeper than that.

I believe small gestures that really express focused, concentrated appreciation for people will bring out the best in them. When done well, personal thank you notes have a powerful, magical effect. Between the lines they can say, “I’m not only grateful for the gift, I’m grateful for YOU too!”  In our global world more and more friendships live in the virtual world. Our personal, life-sustaining relationships are eroding.  A thank you note can be a gift back to the giver that preserves and builds personal relationships that our survival depends on.  A gift may not change lives. But our response of gratitude certainly can.

How do I know this? Because I hear stories and share the glories of thank you notes tucked away in drawers, shoe boxes, and in special files saved to our hard drives. You may call them performance appraisals, “ata” boys, letters of recognition, or very special old fashioned thank you letters, but they all say the same thing: You’re appreciated. We reread them and remember that we are respected, valuable, and part of something bigger than ourselves. They remind us that we are on this earth for the experience of relationship. Ahh…here now is the real purpose of the thank you note. It’s to strengthen, and dwell in RELATIONSHIP! Our “thank you” creates a space where both the giver and the receiver can linger a little longer in the meaning of life: Building and honoring relationships.

So this is easy: from now on, every time you have a reason to say thank you, say it, write it, be a good person and make it personal. Remember how thank you notes can make a big difference in everyone’s life, especially the one you’re living NOW!