The simple pleasure of a snail mail thank you
By Lauren Green
The envelope was so small.
Hidden in a pile of junk mail, it was wedged between the Kroger coupons and a homeowner’s association magazine. Luckily, I saw it just before it hit the recycling bin. My name and address were written on the front of the envelope in curlicue script and pasted in the upper right-hand corner was a single stamp. The envelope’s thickness indicated a card was tucked inside. Lo and behold, I was holding a relic from the no-so-distant past: real mail.
It didn’t take me long to guess what it was. My daughter had turned 21 earlier that week. Her dad and I met her at a restaurant in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square for a fancy brunch, complete with her first (legal) drink, to commemorate the occasion. Her brother even drove in from college to surprise her. It was a wonderful morning. Easy conversation flowed over our migas and mimosas while we caught up on the news of school, home and each other. After brunch, the kids drove back to their separate colleges, and my husband and I headed home. During the drive, I archived the photos of my newly minted 21-year-old with her froufrou drink into an iPhone album. And, as far as I knew, the birthday event had come to its completion.
A few days later when I discovered that piece of mail, I recognized the handwriting as that of my daughter. Her birthday brunch popped back in my mind, giving me an inkling of what was in the envelope: a thank-you note. Of course, I know there are people who still write them, but they are few. That being the case, out of all my daughter’s skill sets, this one makes me especially proud.
Our daughter verbally thanked us several times that day in Fort Worth, so did her written note even serve a purpose? I sure think so.
he note I received that day wasn’t really anything to write home about. She used a Postal Service Forever flag stamp. The card was simple 3-by-5 ivory cardstock. It had no design, no monogram and no beveled edges. She opened with a standard dear-mom-and-dad greeting. This was followed with a sentence acknowledging her birthday gift. Next, she wrote a few words conveying her gratitude for our having made the trip to see her. She wrapped it up with a final sentence saying that she loved us. The words were genuine and kind, but they were hardly hang-on-the-fridge worthy. Yet the impact on me was huge.
Our daughter verbally thanked us several times that day in Fort Worth, so did her written note even serve a purpose? I sure think so. Like most adults, I’m pretty good at saying thank you. But because thank-you’s roll off my tongue so quickly, l sometimes wonder if those in-the-moment responses have more to do with how I’ve been trained and less to do with the gratitude I’m feeling at that particular moment. For me, my immediate spoken thank-you runs the risk of being more rote than real, more genial than genuine.
The handwritten thank-you, however, requires intention, effort and time. First, I have to decide to write one. Next, there are those words. Coming up with actual sentences to fill a blank space can be particularly challenging. And finally, all of this takes time. Assuming I don’t get distracted, the act of jotting down a few sentences, putting a stamp on an envelope and walking to the mailbox can take as little as five minutes. But five minutes is still five minutes, and in my book, any amount of time is valuable. Theoretically speaking, writing a thank-you note is not difficult, but in practice, it’s not necessarily easy.
All of which makes writing one appropriate. More than likely, several things have to fall into place before someone becomes a recipient. Making the time to buy cards isn’t always easy. Nor is planning the party or cooking the dinner or coordinating the happy hour. Someone has to find the gift, make the reservation, plan the itinerary, form the plan or speak the words. Taking all of this into account, I see sending that simple thank-you note as the full-circle completion of a series of gestures, planned well in advance, for my benefit.
How do I give thanks for all that? I write the note.
Lauren Green, a native of Kentucky, has lived in Southlake with her husband and two children
for 15 years. In addition to her work at home, she’s also an active volunteer in the community.