Is Gratitude a Thing of the Past?

I have read some commentaries in the past in which the authors have felt that etiquette and manners are practically a thing of the past and that gratitude has been all-but forgotten. 

I was reminded of this the other day when one of my kids teachers thanked me for sending them a thank you card for a Christmas gift they gave my child.  I was a little surprised and found it kind of funny to be thanked for a thank-you card but was completely taken aback when she told me that she had never received a thank-you card for a Christmas gift she had given.  I couldn't believe it!  She is a teacher and I imagine gives her students a gift every year at Christmas.  No thank-you card, ever???  Ever since that conversation I have not been able to get this off my mind - hence this blog post. 

Now, let me pause and clarify that I, by NO means, an exemplary person in etiquette and manners.  In fact I think back to several faux-pas and cringe.  Did I really do that????  And there will certainly be many more to come.  I do feel very strongly about thank-you cards but sometimes do let them fall through the cracks (umm, I still have a to-do list to write thank you cards from Chase's 1st birthday almost 6 months ago! Don't I get a year? :))  I know I have much to improve upon and I was actually very glad for the little reminder about how important it is. 

And now for my soapbox speech....and again - my disclaimer - this is how I feel but definitely do not always take action with this.  This is my ideal and how I would LOVE to be operating - not how I actually do operate!   I feel like a hand-written thank-you note is always not only appropriate, but the best way of expressing gratitude for something someone has done for you.  Doesn't it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when someone has taken the time to actually sit down and write out a note?  I am always so touched when I receive a note expressing thanks - it truly makes my day, often my week.  How exciting is it to get the mail and sort through the piles of fliers, catalogs and bills and to find a hand-written note in the pile.  It's like finding a buried treasure. Maybe it's my current station in life - there's isn't an abundance of gratitude in my current "job", so maybe I am thirsty for a little verbal love once in a while :).   Also, I have noticed that a hand-written note seems so much more meaningful than an email or text.  Don't misunderstand - words are words and have the same weight regardless of their method of delivery.   Maybe because a hand-written note is so much more work - finding a card, writing, addressing an envelope, finding a stamp and dropping it in the mail - knowing that someone went to all that effort adds a little exclamation mark to the enclosed words.  Also, I do save some thank-you cards and I have I don't ever print out emails to include in my file. 

I also feel thank-you cards should not be limited to physical gifts.  Aren't the best gifts you receive people's time, talents and efforts?  I once read someone's opinion that if someone spend more than 15 minutes doing something for you, a hand-written thank-you card is proper etiquette.  I think I must be really lucky but I could truly write at least a few thank-you cards every week.  If I think about all of the wonderful talks and lessons I am privy to each week on Sunday, the kind, thoughtful encounters I have with friends and family, the wonderful examples I see of others extending love and service to those around them.  The opportunities are limitless.  I have started keeping a stack of thank-you cards and a book of stamps in my top desk drawer to remind me to use them.  I wish I used them more.  I can't count the times I have thought to send one but don't.  I feel very disappointed about the many opportunities I have missed to let someone know that they have touched my life in some way.  I don't think we realize the long lasting impact a few kind words can have.  I have a stack of cards I save and every once in a while if I am looking in my files for something and come across them it is such a joy to re-read them. 

I want some feedback from you.    Has it been your experience that etiquette - in particular thank-you cards - is on the decline?  Is it old-fashioned?  Necessary?  How about an email or text vs. a hand-written note? I would love you to weigh in on this. 


E T Mack said...

I whole-heartedly agree! Ever since I moved in the middle of writing my wedding thank you cards and then couldn't find them after the move, so didn't send them for fear of being waaay too late-- I have tried my hardest to send a hand written thank you. In fact one time, I sent two on accident. I do feel like our society has moved to a non-verbal way of communicating and avoids phone calls or personal conversations sometimes. Letter writing and card writing has gone by the way side because of our need for quick results and convenience. And I think for some, the avoidance of taking more of their precious time to talk to someone. I am not saying I am the best at card writing or have not tried to avoid a personal conversation for the sake of time, but I am aware of it and try my hardest to push aside my "time crunch" for something more personal like a phone call or hand written card. Great post, TAM!

Nathan & Michelle Watabe said...

I hope hand written thank you's aren't a thing of the past. Sometimes I am really great about them -- plenty of other times I have really good intentions and it ends there. I have a stack of written but not sent thank you's from my wedding that was 9.5 years ago (the ones I couldn't find addresses for - most were sent). It makes me feel sick to hear about Ella's teacher because I know Harrison's teacher gave him a little book, but I can't even remember what it was or where we put it! Also, she asked my input on whether she needed to send indiviual thank you notes to the kids for their Christmas gift and I encouraged her to. She said lots of teachers weren't and some were doing a generic one. I suggested a typed form letter where she cut and pasted the gift. That's what she ended up doing. I can't believe some of the teachers weren't going to do anything. Harrison's teacher last year did a general one and I thought it was a little tacky. This coming from the girl who didn't even THINK to thank for the book the teacher gave him. Yikes! I guesss it's not too late -- they've only been back for a week. THANK YOU for the reminder :)

Marilee said...

I agree that receiving a hand written note is such a personal and intimate way of communicating these days. Emails, texts, voicemails, facebook. All of those things, allbeit fun and convenient, have taken away from the handwritten card making them almost obsolete! (Unless of course one is lucky enough to be friends with you!) I still have (and cherish) the card you wrote me after the Moab 1/2! You are sooooo good at writing thank you cards or "love" notes as Mindy and I call them.
Sadly for me, I'm not the best Thank You Card writter and I HATE it! I have every intention, especially with my kids birthdays but somehow they get lost in the shuffle of life and my kids never write them, or even worse, I never mail them. I sooooo want to be better and need to stop justifying it with excuses like "I gave them a treat bag that said 'thanks for coming to my party'" or "she knows I am busy, she won't mind if I don't send a note". Really, I don't think anyone minds that they don't get a card, but the feeling that comes when you do get one is that someone cared enough to take the time to tell you that they do! Means the world! When I was first put in the RS Presidency in the DP Ward I decided that every Sunday I would write a little note on a cute note card to various sisters in the ward expressing gratitude for them, their talents, their example, etc. I did it for a few months and then it fell by the way side for some reason or another! This post reminded me that I need to get back on it! I cleaned out my bedside table today and even found a stack of cute note cards I'd forgotten about! Time to start a new! I'm gonna do better!