Over the years, I have taught you many important skills and lessons. Among them are how to use the potty, tie your shoes, make your bed, drive a car (the scariest by far), cook, and do your laundry. Once I felt you mastered a task, I moved onto another. But there is one lesson I somehow can’t let go of, and to this day, I know I am still a nag about it. This is writing thank you cards.
Sadly this has become a dying art which I blame on technology and non-nagging parents. Today thank you notes are disappearing, replaced with emails, texts, and private messages via Facebook. While I am not a fan of these forms of communication for giving thanks, I can accept this because at least the receiver of the gift is acknowledging their gratitude and receipt of the present. If I stick a check in the mail, I am satisfied with an email acknowledgement. With the exception of shower and wedding presents, article 1, paragraph 2 of my thank you policy states, “in the event that the giver is able to make eye contact with the receiver, no further thank you’s are necessary after the fact.”
If the giver clearly took time choosing or making the gift, a text thank you is never ever sufficient! There is a mathematical equation which illustrates this:
Effort of gift = effort of thank you
Two examples demonstrating when a formal thank you is necessary versus when an in-person thank you is appropriate (to me) come to mind. I made a lamp for Grandma and Grandpa. You all know the one—it was covered with old photos which I decoupaged onto the shade. Since I was able to hand it to them, give them a hug, and witness their excitement, according to my thank you policy, no follow-up was required. But when I assembled a photo calendar filled with a multitude of photos spanning over fifty years, and the said calendar was mailed to the recipient, then that gift clearly required a hand-written note or a telephone call.
Hospitality also necessitates a thank you note or phone call. The first time I spent the weekend at Dad’s parents’ house, I followed up the visit with a thank you note. They were shocked with my politeness. Clearly their reaction demonstrated that either no one ever thanked them for their hospitality or my act was not familiar to them because they never taught or were taught this basic courtesy. I have pounded and pounded this into your heads over and over, so I hope you do so with your own children.
Apparently I am not alone in my feelings, because the art, or lack of, writing notes to acknowledge gifts was the subject of a “Dear Abby” column this week:
If there is one topic that shows up repeatedly in my mail, it’s thank-you notes — or, rather, the lack of them. It’s such a common aggravation that I receive dozens of complaints in every batch of emails or letters I receive. While letter-writing may always be a chore to some people, there are occasions when the written message is the only proper means of communication.
So there you go. It was in the paper, so it must be true. But sometimes, it’s nice to get one for not reason.