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Make a Note to be Thankful

Make a Note to be Thankful

This past Mother’s Day we as a family invited those around us whom might feel a disconnect to join us for our special meal. By “disconnect” I mean those who would be separated from children or parents on Mother’s Day. As it turned out, our choice was my new supervisor and his wife. They have recently moved from Indiana and were separated from family.

We had a nice lunch together blessed with laughter and camaraderie.

A week later our mail contained a nice handwritten note: a thank you card.  My wife opened the envelope and read the contents.  It was a simply stated but obviously heartfelt expression of thankfulness. One of my sons commented, “A thank you note for lunch?”

“Sure,” I said and gave him the card to read.  Then I asked, “How does that make you feel?”

“Special I guess.” Another lesson learned.

Saying “thank you” isn’t just a social courtesy, it is an important act that just should be done.  The person who was gracious to us deserves to hear a “thank you” in return. But aside from that, it helps us develop an attitude of gratitude. We can easily forget to be thankful. Putting pen to paper helps us clarify that state of mind. It is an important pattern to teach our children.

Thank you cards have always been a part of our family tradition. We did them quickly, usually within a few days of receiving the gift or participating in the event. For instance, most years we took time on December 26th to write our Christmas ones.

When the children were younger, sometimes the thank you wasn’t a written note, but a drawing they created showing them using the gift or attending the party. Sometimes we would include a photograph of the boys at play with the gifted toy.

Some people have challenges when it comes to this courtesy. They get so concerned about the wording of what to say, they convince themselves not to send one. This is overthinking the thing.  The wording need not be complex. In fact, usually simpler is preferred.

Another issue is format.  Is it okay to text a thank you or send an e-mail of gratitude? Should it always be a card or letter? A social media response is better than nothing, but is far less impressive. Texting is a leaky rowboat of thanks whereas a written thank you note is a luxury cruise ship of gratitude. This isn’t the time to be lazy. You aren’t just being courteous, you are setting a life-pattern for your children.

I have a confession. One year we didn’t mail all the cards our children had written. However, there is a story behind the decision. As our family opened the gifts on Christmas morning, one family member said, “This year, none of those dumb thank you cards.” We knew this declaration was made because her children had never done them and she didn’t want the bother of starting the tradition. That was (and continues to be) her parenting decision. That year, just as always, our children wrote them anyway, we didn’t send them to her.  Her desire to not receive them wasn’t reason enough for us to stop the practice of writing them.

This is more to this than just good parenting.  Instilling the practice of writing thank you notes is a “casting your bread upon the water” gesture. God-willing, if you are a parent now, some day you will be a grandparent as well. It will be a treasured moment when you read a thank-you card sent to you from your grandchild. And your children and grandchildren will have a reputation for being people who appreciate the sacrifices of others.

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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