Every year at this time, I find myself thinking about my grandmother who passed away several years ago. She was my confidant and fast-food-eater in crime. You see, I wasn’t allowed to have junk food growing up, but grandma was a sucker for Popeye’s fried chicken, Slurpee’s and eating endless amounts of cookie dough. We would spend every holiday in her kitchen baking up the ugliest, most unappealing batch of cookies that no one in their right mind would eat. We would put them in tins, put a bow on them and then give them to family as gifts. When the cookie giving deed was done, she’d pull me aside and ask, “did they say thank-you?” Most did, but the occasional person did not, or at least they failed to show the level of gratitude she was hoping for, to which she would reply, “well, then they aren’t getting any next year.” And darned if she didn’t mean it.
At the time, I didn’t understand why she was so adamant about thank-yous and receiving thank-you cards, but it was common knowledge that if you wanted a gift from grandma, you had better send a hand-written thank-you note, or you weren’t getting a thing next year. Regardless of our age, 4 or 40, we all knew grandma wanted that dang thank-you card.
The art of writing hand-written thank-you cards is lost. We all have gotten e-cards and dancing gifs and thank-you memes on email. But there is something so special about a hand written card acknowledging what you have done for someone else. It’s the realization that this person took a moment out of their day, to recognize you. Yes, an email or text is a moment, but buying a card, writing down personal thoughts, and then mailing it, takes much more time and effort, which in turn makes us feel extra special.
Several columns ago, I quoted Dale Carnegie from his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” In the book he talks about appreciation and how it is just as vital to our existence and growth as food, water and shelter. He’s right. We all want to feel valued in this life and know that our existence has purpose and meaning. We fill that need through appreciation for others and by receiving it from others. Yet today, with technology, we have become, well, lazy. We fire off a red heart emoji or a “Thanks! You’re awesome!” sentence in an email and feel that will suffice. Although this is better than nothing, I challenge you to take it a step further.
This holiday I’d like to see you rekindle the art of writing a thank-you card. If you have a staff or boss, write them a thank-you card telling them why you appreciate them. Think of the things they have done for you and how your life, however small their contribution might be, is a bit better because of them. I challenge you to give that nasty boss of yours a thank-you card. It might be a struggle to find some semblance of good in them, but still thank them. Often the people in life who are the meanest, most critical or emotionally detached, tend to be the people who need appreciation the most.
Take the time to also teach the younger generation the art of writing thank-you cards. It means so much to people (especially grandparents) when their efforts of giving are recognized. Make it fun. Buy cool cards, use glitter, fancy stamps, but teach kids that this small act has great meaning to someone else.
And if you do receive a holiday tin filled with horrifically ugly, inedible cookies, make sure to smile, nod and write your thank-you card. Whatever you do, do not do like my mother and put the tin on the roof of the car as you’re getting ready to leave, forget about it and then back out of grandma’s drive away. That cookie tin was catapulted down the street and ugly cookies were launched into several neighbor’s yards.