When I was a little girl, my mother would always make me write thank you cards. I absolutely hated this practice. Writing the cards always took forever and I never knew how to sound genuine. Every year my great aunts, all five of them, would give me Christmas and birthday money, and every year I had to write them thank you cards. I would complain and wonder why I had to write thank you cards when my cousins never had to, but my mom would always say, “It is the right thing to do.”
Throughout the years, my mother has continued this tooth-pulling practice of requiring me to write thank you cards. Whether it was someone who made food for me or someone who took me on vacation, I could not escape the misery of writing a thank you card. I found it tedious; I never knew what to say other than the obvious and I never liked the way I sounded in the cards. “Dear Aunt Bette, thank you for the money it will really come in handy” never felt sincere enough for me. I always felt that thank you cards were just something that mothers made their children do along with chores and dressing their child in that adorable yet hideous outfit for picture day. I loathed the fact that I was forced to write them and thought that thanking the person face to face was an easier and better way to show my gratitude.
As my senior year of high school was coming to an end, preparations for the graduation party began to begin. My mother and I would look over the invitation list, contemplating who to invite. As the guest list filled, I became increasingly excited: I knew that a large list of invitations meant a large sum of money and presents. I had to admit I was a little greedy; in fact, my motto for inviting people was, “the more the merrier”. Little did I know the more the merrier would become “the more, the more thank you cards”.
I received a considerable amount of money and learned how much these people who had supported me for eighteen years really cared. Not only did they give me a little something for receiving a diploma, but also they gave me heartfelt congratulations and fortune for the following years. It was after opening all the envelopes that I felt I owed my guests my deepest gratitude not only for giving me a gift, but also being there every step of the way.
I personalized every card by thanking them for the specific gift and letting them know how I would use it. For coaches and teachers, I showed appreciation for helping me grow and become the young woman I am today. But after all my cards were written, I still felt that I had people to thank. I noticed that two people who were not on my list needed to be: my parents. Immediately I wrote them each a note thanking them for the last eighteen years. I thanked my dad for the countless hours sitting at the dinner table helping me with my math homework. On my mom’s note was appreciation for all the rides to school and practices, putting bows in my hair or braiding it, and all the good luck signs she made for me.
The responses I got from these cards were amazing. People really appreciated the time I took to write these and genuinely could feel my thanks. My parents were very thankful and said they would treasure the notes forever. The priest from my school said he has never received a written thank you note for coming to a graduation party. My teacher even said that she was keeping the note as a model for her students.
As a young child I always detested writing thank you cards. As a teenager I dreaded the thought of writing thank you cards. As a young woman I love writing thank you cards, because I understand the meaning behind them. These cards are a way to take the time and write out why you are truly thankful for what someone has given… and, of course, because “It is the right thing to do”.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.