Ugh. The guilt.
The morning started off so well. Early morning sunshine filtering through the windows as I sat with my coffee, journaling, thinking about how my life could be better and what I could do to make it so.
And then I read a seemingly innocuous Wall Street Journal article and that ugly feeling of guilt crept into my stomach. The article included a commencement address Chief Justice John Roberts had given at his son’s 9th grade graduation. It wasn’t the main point of the article that got me, although that inspired me as well. It was one of the last paragraphs.
“’Once a week, you should write a note to someone. Not an email. A note on a piece of paper. It will take you exactly 10 minutes.” Then, he urged, put the note in an envelope and send it off the old way: via U.S. mail.”
Christmas was over two weeks ago and I haven’t sent my mom a thank you note! I thought, sitting there with my coffee and considering how to make my own life better… What is wrong with me?
Now, lest you misunderstand, I don’t send thank you notes for every gift or nice thing someone does for me. I probably should, but I don’t.
But last fall my husband and I became empty nesters. We rented our house for five years, bought an RV and hit the road. We figured we’d come home a few days at Christmas and stay in a hotel because you don’t want to be in an RV at Christmas in Minnesota.
My parents, however, had different plans. They decided to move to a bigger townhome with an entire basement level living area for us, our two standard poodles, and whatever kids happen to be home for the holidays as well.
Not only did they move, when they remodeled, they made sure the house was dog friendly, installing solid surface floors and non-fussy furnishings we wouldn’t have to worry about.
We stayed with them for 10 days over Christmas. The fact that they, who hadn’t had anyone living with them for nearly 20 years, were able to host our loud family (we had one kid with us) without completely losing their minds is a testament to their generosity.
And I know I need to write a thank you note. Not because it’s expected, but because it’s meaningful. My mom doesn’t write them often either, but when she does, they are heartfelt and beautiful. Her mom was the same way. Up until the day she passed away at age 94, my grandma would write thank you notes for all manner of gifts or invitations. Even as her hand grew shaky and it was obvious she had difficulty, she understood thank yous are important.
Make Someone's Day
Today a thank you feels almost trite. We’re much more likely to buy a bottle of wine for someone who has done something nice or to take them out to dinner than to actually send a note. Perhaps that’s why they are more important than ever.
So then, why are they so hard to write? Why is it hard to take 10 minutes to thank someone for something that took them longer, that required their time, energy and resources? Is it because it was a habit forced upon as children, writing thank you notes for gifts received? Or is it because we are so busy with our own lives we fail to recognize how much a few handwritten words on a piece of paper can mean to another person?
Whatever it may be, I vow, as I sit here now writing this, that in 2018, I will write more thank you notes. In fact, I’m going to the store this afternoon to buy 12 and my goal will be to write one each month. That doesn’t sound like many, but like a muscle that needs to gradually be exercised, I’ll start there and see where it leads me.
Will you join me?
If you'd like to read the entire article with a WSJ subscription, you can find it here.