In this time of “just a quick e-mail,” and terse tweets and instant online messages, a handwritten, snail mail-delivered thank you note shows its recipient that whatever he or she did meant enough to you to intentionally pause your life to write words of gratitude in your own hand. Unfortunately, many of us painfully remember our mother forcing us to write thank you notes to aunts and grandmothers for gifts that, at the time, we weren’t all that grateful for. Paradoxically, rather than teach us a good habit, Mom unwittingly turned us away from it.

We’re adults now. It’s time to bring back the handwritten-on-nice-stationery thank you note. Admit it: when you see that undersized envelope in the mail, don’t you set it apart from the stack of bills and rolled up circulars promising a free egg roll if you eat at some Chinese restaurant?  It’s a treasure buried in trash. Many people save and display their thank you notes. How many emails have your ever printed out and stuck on your refrigerator?

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." - John F. Kennedy

You’re rolling your eyes and saying, “Way too much effort.” Well, that’s the point. You want to show the person who made an effort for you that you are responding with an act of gratitude that required effort.  And it’s not that much effort, if you organize yourself.

Go to the store and buy a pack of nice (need not be expensive) thank you cards and a serviceable ball point pen. Almost every store now sells “forever” stamps—buy a book.  You have just removed the most time consuming part of thank you note writing—getting all the stuff together. Now you’re ready to write.

Consider these few things when writing your notes:

  1. Make them personal and specific.  The recipient should know exactly why his or her act of kindness engendered your gratitude.
  2. Make them timely. A note mailed weeks later says, “I really didn’t want to write this.” As James Allen, the 19th century British author said, “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”
  3. Close the note with a suggestion of getting together soon. Use it as opportunity to reconnect.

Prepare yourself to respond with sincere gratitude. You’ll feel good when you do, and your recipient will feel good that he or she did something nice. And those good feelings will encourage both of you to do more nice things.

A heartfelt, effortful expression of gratitude in a small envelope is a powerful thing.


Need some cards to send your thanks? Shop the Stock Up Sale to get select Holstee letterpress cards at 50% off!

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Jeff Strausser is an author, playwright, and freelance writer. His short stories have been published in various literary journals, and he has contributed articles to various magazines. In addition, Barron’s Educational Series has published four of his textbooks for middle school and high school students. Jeff's stage plays have been performed by high school and community theatre groups throughout the United States.

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