Cultivating Gratitude: The Art of Thank You

A few weeks ago, I celebrated a birthday.

A few weeks after that, I received a lovely package in the mail.

This was not a hastily thrown together package. From the decorative paper fastened to the envelope on which my name and address were beautifully printed, to the ribbon tied around three small squares of delicate sea salt and chocolate candies, to the card and envelope, to the hand-made flower bobby pins–all were matching hues.

There had been care in putting this package together, and I could feel that care as I unwrapped each item, as I read the card, as I thought of my dear friend and her beauty.

I don’t remember being “taught” or required to write thank-you notes as a general rule, as a habit. Perhaps I was. (My parents can weigh in on this if they want to.) The extent of thank-you writing I can remember is on the blank cards my stepmom handed to me when I was still rather young. She gave explicit directions to write a thank-you note for a particular item, like money sent to us at Christmas.

I don’t remember ever thinking of doing it on my own, so I suppose that if I was taught to send thank-you notes, it mustn’t have stuck.

Now fast forward to adulthood.

I do remember quite clearly how surprised I was, after I was married and living in Texas, to receive thank-you notes from friends we had over for dinner. I actually thought it was a little strange, because having someone over for dinner didn’t seem thank-you-card-worthy. But it continued to happen with lots of different friends.

Apparently this is what people–at least in the south–did.

After some time, it started to seem like a good idea, especially since snail-mail had become so “old-school.” I liked getting these little thank-you cards in the mail. So I started doing it, too.

Then, when some friends had moved away, come back for a visit, and left a little thank-you gift in the guest room, I thought that, too, seemed like a good idea.

So I started doing it, at least when I remembered to pack a little hospitality-appreciation gift in advance.

Over the last ten years, I’ve come to believe that thank-you notes, thank-you gifts, thank-you anythings are just one small way we show our appreciation. But they’re an important way.

And, what’s more, they’re not just for the receivers.

They’re for the senders.

Because thank-you notes remind us to be grateful. They help us cultivate gratitude. They remind us that we are grateful.

For me, it’s easy to forget.

Thank you, my friend, for the beautiful bobby pins.

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2 comments on “Cultivating Gratitude: The Art of Thank You

  1. Bonnie (Mom) says:

    I’m embarassed to ‘weigh in’ on cyber-space but I will. You are right, I did not stress sending ‘thank you’ notes. Even though we had lots to be thankful for, gifts were usually given in ‘first person’ and the ‘thank you’ was given after the opening of the gift, pausing to appreciate the thoughtfulness and not rushing immediately onto the next gift.

    I have also received and sent ‘thank yous’ for dinner invitations and other nice gestures. It does remind us we are grateful. Thanks for reminding me.

    PS Love the bobby pins!!!!!

    • elizabeth says:

      I’ll reply as a means of noting to everyone else that of course I wasn’t criticizing my mom and dad’s parenting skills regarding thank-you notes! I was definitely taught to be grateful–and to express it–as a regular practice. As I said, there are lots of ways to express gratitude. 🙂

      And I am certainly grateful for you, Momma.

      On a different note, when I receive a generic thank-you message that sounds like it was a fill-in-the-blank sort of card (Thank you for [the gift]. I will be sure to [use it/spend it/play with it] and think of you often.”), I’m not sure it’s any better than not receiving a darn thing. But maybe it is.

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