Two years ago, I attended a graduation, two baby showers, a wedding, and many birthday celebrations. I had a great time finding gifts and cards that suited each person, and admit, it was an expense. But what I never received was a thank-you. Not in person. Not in an email. Not even as a bona fide “send in the mail” thank-you note. I will always wonder if my friends or former students liked my gifts or appreciated my kind words. Secretly, I wish I had been thanked.
Today, I’m told that people don’t have to send thank-you notes — that it’s not necessary in our culture. If someone opens a graduation gift and says “thank you” to you at that moment, then that’s enough.
I disagree. As to the graduation, showers, and wedding I attended, the gifts were opened after guests had left. But even if the gifts had been opened while I was there, traditional thank-you notes are appropriate and even expected as a way of showing appreciation to the gift-givers.
The NO-THANKS part
You may already send thank-you notes for gifts or perhaps you are considering this practice. If so, you might consider an exercise I do with students: write thank-you notes without the words “thank you” in your card or email. This is a challenge!
A student might write, “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the pencils. I like them. Love, Eric,” but that’s pretty simple. When my student Eric wrote with no thanks, it made him really think about the gift in detail.
When I received your package and picked it up, I noticed that things rattled inside. I thought, “Hmmmm. I wonder if pencils are trying to escape from bondage?” Finally, my birthday arrived. I opened the beautifully wrapped package and there was the assortment of colored pencils and charcoal pencils that I have always wanted! I use them every day and have enclosed some artistic creations for you. You are so thoughtful.
One time, a student in my Latin class and her mom brought me the most amazing cookies. I grabbed some sensory words and wrote this response without the words “thank you.”
Dear Kate and Joy,
When I think of cookies I’ve made, these words come to mind: burned, crisp, bland. This is because I try to make cookies with no eggs and little oil and sugar. Your gingerbread men will be a HIT with my kids. The feeling of Christmas now permeates my house.
Te amo, Ms. Locklear
This no thanks writing trick might jumpstart your creativity, making you WANT to write thank-you notes!
Thinking back to the major life events I attended last year, this is what I learned about myself. When someone thanks me, I think highly of that person and have a tendency to send additional presents in the future. But overall, with the lack of thanks in our society, I’m considering starting the practice of just sending a card.