Saying Thank You

My son received some nice gifts from extended family and friends when he graduated high school last spring, and he was genuinely grateful for them. I was curious whether he’d take the initiative to write thank-you notes to the gift-givers.

Research shows that saying thank you is important not only for the person who hears it but it also has a positive impact on the person who says it. Moreover, it has been shown to build trust and community, as well as to inspire other acts of gratitude. Even in the workplace, gratitude has been found to have clear benefits for productivity and morale.

When my kids were young, I always insisted they write thank-you cards to acknowledge their gratitude whenever they were the recipient of someone’s generosity. They understood the need for these notes but they did not necessarily enjoy writing them.

Be present in all things and thankful for all things.

Maya Angelou

And call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always been a fan of the handwritten note. I like writing them and receiving them, and I know I’m not alone in that. Something about writing things out, and receiving a note written by hand feels so personal, and somehow more intimate, than the same information imparted over text or email.

But now that my son was an 18-year-old high school graduate, I knew the days were over of me watching him to make sure he’d done nice handwritten notes. When a few weeks went by and he was not asking me for addresses, I finally asked him if he was planning to write thank-you notes. He looked at me incredulously and said, “I already sent everyone thank-you texts as soon as I got their gifts!”

Despite the fact that he’d opted for digital delivery for his thank yous, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he had acted so quickly in acknowledging the gifts; the handwritten notes had always taken him weeks to accomplish. I checked in with my mom, who reported that she had, in fact, very promptly received a heartfelt expression of thanks via text from my son a few weeks earlier. Another friend of mine reported the same, and she even said how impressed she was with the content of his message to her.

My sons words touched others, helping me recognize that there are many ways to say ‘thank you.’ The value is in expressing gratitude, not in the way it is shared. So, I let my son know it meant a lot to me that he was so prompt and thoughtful about acknowledging his gifts. Maybe someday he’ll come to appreciate the handwritten note as much as I do, yet I am grateful that he took to heart the value of thoughtfully acknowledging a kind gesture.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

Marcel Proust

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