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All It Takes Is A Stamp

Prepare yourself for a hot topic, bound to incite controversy and rage. No, its not politics. Or immigration. Or even global warming.

It’s Thank You Notes.

I have a friend whose adult son just got engaged. She asked him what the couple’s “policy” on writing thank you notes was going to be…if they did not intend to send any then she was not going to invite her friends to the shower or wedding, lest she would be embarrassed by their lack of etiquette. Another friend chimed in friends should be invited to share in the family joy, but instruct them not to send a gift. I know someone else who didn’t receive a thank you note for a wedding gift he purchased for a cousin and this informed his decision to not attend any future weddings on that side of the family.

I warned you this post was going to get real.

At the other end of the spectrum, the son of my husband’s college friend (okay, girlfriend) got engaged last year and I was fortunate enough to be invited to her soon-to-be daughter-in-law Regina’s bridal shower. I had not met Regina prior to the shower, but felt honored to be included. As soon as I received the invitation I went on her registry and sent her the juicer she had registered for. A week later I received a lovely handwritten note thanking me for the gift and expressing how much she was looking forward to meeting me. I knew I would like her.  Although I had sent my gift in advance, others had brought their shower gifts with them to the event. Before Regina opened the first one she announced to the crowd she had to acknowledge me (what??!!) for the juicer I sent, and how she and her fiance were trying to slim down prior to the wedding — the juicer was being used daily to help them stay on their respective diets and they were so grateful! I was dizzy. Months later the wedding invitation arrived in our mailbox, and again I immediately went to her registry and sent her the everyday dishes she had registered for. As soon as she received them, she sent my husband and I an excited text including a photo of the dishes already unpacked and in the cupboard. She added a formal thank you note would be forthcoming (it was and it did) but she couldn’t contain her excitement and wanted to share it with us.

It isn’t fair but Regina set a very high bar that I can't help but measure all others against.

When I was a little girl sending a note of thanks for a gift was a non-negotiable: we weren’t allowed to play with the toy or wear the clothing until a proper thank you note was written.  My mom or older sibling would address the envelope, and my handwritten thoughts would be tucked inside. I remember when I was finally deemed “old enough” to address my own envelopes it was like a rite of passage. My husband says he also had to write thank you notes immediately and if his father thought his penmanship was questionable, he would rip it up and my husband would have to begin again. (My husband is prone to exaggeration so this may or may not be true. I will be fact-checking with his brother.)

When I was a hiring manager at the American Red Cross I would occasionally receive a thank you note (or email) from a candidate who interviewed with me for a position. To this day I remember each of these people and if all things were considered equal among the applicant pool, I would extend an offer to the sender of the thank you note. Why? In my mind this person was going to be someone who went the extra mile and paid attention to the details. This person would demonstrate professionalism and be respectful. It told me how they were going to show up for the organization, their team, and our blood donors. I got all this from a piece of paper that took a few moments to compose. To write and send a thank you note is an opportunity to show the world who you are.

The point of a thank you note is to acknowledge the receipt of the gift, yes, but to also create the chance to share how that gift made them feel, what their presence at the event meant to them, how their contribution on a project was the game changer.

Bottom line for the recipient: thank you notes are about VALIDATION OF EFFORT. Did the boss take note of the extra hours I put in on a certain project to ensure its success? Did your brother’s stepdaughter appreciate the expensive group baby gift the rest of the family chipped in on?

For the sender: thank you notes are a beautiful chance to show sincere gratitude and appreciation; to revisit and share with the recipient all the powerful emotions that person made you feel by their generous act. Thank you notes are a vehicle to strengthen a relationship and to not send one is a lost opportunity for deeper connection.

If you ever want to buy me a gift, a box of personalized notecards is always a good idea. A handwritten thank you note is 100% guaranteed.

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Just today I met Pat for coffee and apologized for not sending a thank you note for her last act of kindness! I did share how much the act meant to my husband and I! I love notes and plan to stock up and bring it back. Not only because I see how much it means to her, but because it dies spark joy to relive the moment:)

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