Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Art of Saying Thank You

A few weeks after my husband's accident with the hay baler, I left him alone one morning while I ran errands. He was bored, and I suggested he write the thank-you notes I'd been meaning to do.

I'd kept a list of folks who had gone out of their way to help me and/or him out when he was hurt. Folks called and expressed concern, which we appreciated, but it was the people who actually brought food, or drove me to the hospital, or otherwise went out of their way to help, that I felt deserved a personal note. All of the extended hands were wonderful, but a couple of people really did step up and go out of their way for us.

One of the people on the list was the doctor who saved my husband's hand and arm. At first my husband questioned that - aren't we, after all, going to pay him? - but I insisted that he should send him a personal thank you note. I also had on the list the staff of 9 West at the hospital and the ER staff.

My husband, still recovering and not able to argue as well as he might otherwise, dutifully wrote up the thank-you notes while I was gone. I glanced at them - they were very simple, one or two lines that said something nice, such as, "Thank you for the cookies and for helping out my wife" or whatever. I dropped them in the mail.

My husband has since seen his doctor three times, and every time the doctor has thanked him for the thank-you note. My husband has decided that the physician must seldom receive a heart-felt thanks for the work he has done, since this little thank-you note has made such an impression on the good doctor.

It is such a small thing, a thank-you note. It took my husband very little time to write the notes - I think there were about a dozen in all - and the cost of the stationary and the stamp not worthy of discussion.

But we don't say "thank you" with sincerity in our society much any more. People do things and perhaps we thank them at the time - I know I thanked the doctor that night, at 1:30 a.m., when he came to tell me how the surgery went. Of course I meant that, and I was grateful. It's the little thank-you note that came weeks later, though, that the doctor remembers.

If we think back on our life journey, especially those of us who have a little age on our souls, I know there are many folks who could use a thank-you note. Special teachers, neighbors, grandparents, aunts, uncles, mentors, co-workers. We do not live secluded on islands where we see no one; we are social creatures and our lives intertwine with exchanges meaningful and meaningless perhaps thousands of times a day.  

Writing a thank-you note is not hard. Many people put it off because they think it is difficult or time consuming, but it is not. They can be as long or as short as you like.

What, I wonder, would a teacher say if she received a simple note like this:

Dear Mrs. ________,

The other day I was writing a report and I thought of you. I wanted to thank you for your encouragement when I was at student at _____ in _____; because of your efforts to teach me grammar, I am now a __________.

Thank you for all that you did for me.

And sign your name. It's not that hard, really. She may not remember you - teachers have hundreds of students, after all - but you will make her day.

And your heart will feel lighter.

I would like to see the art of saying Thank You return with a vengeance. I think it would make us a kinder, more gentle society, and heaven knows we could use more of that.

So for my own contribution, let me say THANK YOU, dear reader, for the time you've given me, the many comments you've left, and for your prayers and heartfelt concern. You have given me a greater community and enlightened my world.





  1. My daughter has taught my grandchildren to always send a thank you note. Not an e-mail, but an actual thank you note that they write or draw a picture on or whatever they are capable of doing at age 10, 4, 2.... They always make me smile when I receive them, and I am pretty certain that your husband's doctor felt the same way. He probably beamed from ear to ear to receive your husband's thanks... xox

  2. Wonderful post, Anita. I hate to say it, but one of the reasons I stopped sending small gifts to some family members was because no one ever acknowledged receiving the gift -- no thank you via mail, phone or email. You're right in that it is such a little thing, but it really does make a difference in someone's day/life.

  3. What wonderful idea! It's not enough to just pay a bill when the doctor and staff saved his hand and arm. But I doubt many people spend the time. And the fact that your husband wrote them himself makes them even more special. I'll have to remember that.


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