T’is the season for giving gifts, and whether you observe Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, or mark other occasions, there is a good chance that you have—or will have—received a present or two, or were treated to a holiday party or celebration. If that is the case, now is the time to put ink to paper—yes, I mean actual paper—and pen a thank you note to the person who graciously remembered and included you. It matters little what you might really think about the choice of the gift; what matters is how you make the giver feel, showing your appreciation for their thoughtfulness and effort, rather than taking them for granted.
Inscribing thank you notes is becoming a lost art in our culture with the prevalence of technology, which is rendering our communication increasingly impersonal. By contrast, a hand-written note makes a statement, standing out among the clutter of e-mails and texts, distinguishing and illuminating your gratitude. The note does not have to be long; three or four sentences, in fact, can do the trick, which does not require extraordinary effort or time on your part.
It is never too soon to begin this practice, which is why it is important to teach your children at an early age to thank individuals for the gifts they receive; it is an admirable lifelong habit. From the time our daughter was three, I would sit with her, spelling out a word letter by letter: “D-e-a-r G-r-a-n-d-m-a, T-h-a-n-k y-o-u f-o-r ....” Admittedly, the process—which took hours—could be absolutely agonizing and exhausting, for both of us; however, it was an investment that reaped enormous benefits. Today, my twenty-year-old daughter writes notes that make the recipient feel like a million dollars, even if the gift was a ten-dollar bill within a card. Contrast that to a recipient in my own life, to whom I sent birthday and Christmas presents for twenty years, for which I received only one thank you note. My gifts, it seemed, descended into a black hole. Had it not been for wanting to preserve the friendship that I had with his mother—who actually believed that notes were unnecessary—I would have curtailed the gifts long ago.
No one wants to be ignored or made to feel like he’s chopped liver. Writing a small thank you note is a very big gesture that goes a long way toward preventing that occurrence, which is also a very good thing to do.