Do you love mail? Not email, junk mail or the dreaded bills, but, actual mail. I mean a letter, note or card. Did you notice that I left out the “thank you” cards? As a journalist, I love getting those handwritten notes, but unfortunately, handwritten anything seem to have become a lost art.
Well, we need to talk about those God-forsaken thank you cards – they just don’t seem to go away, do they? The question is: should they go away?
To be honest, I am very torn on the etiquette of thank you cards. At my young age of 45, I feel that I’m in a generation caught between trying to keep something going and letting it go completely. And, my true desire would be to let it go completely, especially in certain circumstances.
I know many people would disagree altogether, but let’s talk about this honestly and in regards to a specific topic — grief. Tell me, when you are grieving the loss of a parent, spouse, friend, relative, or God-forbid, your child, do you feel like sitting down and writing heartfelt thank you cards to the people who were there for you? I personally feel that those who stand beside me during trying times know how much I appreciate them and, of course, realize how very thankful I am for all they did for me. So, do they need me to write it down, too?!
Seriously, stop and think about it for a minute. Would your friends or family want you to write out a thank you note to them if they knew that you were drowning in sorrow all day and couldn’t even get out of bed? Would they want you to write out a thank you note even though it may make you even sadder or cause extreme anxiety? Or what if you don’t know what to say, so you don’t write anything at all? With so much going on during these times, I wish someone would tell me why we allow the simplicity of ‘thank you’ card writing make us feel so guilty.
I mean, guilt is the very last thing a friend would want you to feel during those difficult moments, right?
It’s the damn etiquette rules behind the act of writing “thank you” cards that makes people feel so guilty. It’s expected regardless of circumstance, and I’m not okay with that. I believe any true friend would say “No, please don’t make things harder on yourself” to someone who was grieving.
And if they don’t feel that way? Well, sometimes you have to just take care of yourself first.
But then there are those other reasons for “thank you” card writing which we also must discuss. They include: bridal showers followed by weddings, baby showers followed by the birth of a child, birthdays (yours, your partner’s, your children’s), anniversaries, graduations, meal deliveries when someone’s sick, a ride to work, paying for someone’s meal or even a random gift to make someone smile. You get my point, right? So, when can society just give and not expect to receive something in return?
Goodness, we probably should all be writing a thank you card to someone almost weekly, if not more often than that, based on the list I provided! And, I know I didn’t touch on everything!
So, why am I writing about this now? Well, for two reasons, honestly. Mainly, I feel it’s time for a change in this area. New rules for changing times. Heck, even Miss Manners leaves room to change the rulebook etiquette on “thank you” card writing when she said this “I make a distinction between manners and etiquette – manners as the principles, which are eternal and universal, etiquette as the particular rules which are arbitrary and different in different times, different situations, different cultures.” (Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners).
And, secondly, I want my children to be able to show that they are grateful for any and all ways in which people show them they are loved, whether it be stopping by to see them unexpectedly, taking them somewhere, inviting them over for a play date, and especially when buying them presents! I want them to grow up with good manners, knowing the importance of showing appreciation to others. However, I’m just not convinced that the “thank you” card route is the best way to teach them.
Can’t we be more creative in the ways we show appreciation, which could eliminate the task of writing a thank you card, altogether?
Ultimately, I write the thank you notes because I don’t live well with guilt. However, as I move forward in life and see hardships fall on others, or even just the hectic-ness of daily life, I tell them upfront to please not worry about thank you’s, especially writing it out in a card. I’m here because I’m your friend and I love you. I know you appreciate my help. It is because we are friends that you don’t have to “thank me” by writing out a card.
It may sound silly, but one less task for people in today’s fast-moving world can ease many burdens and quiet a troubled heart. Think about it the next time you expect to receive a thank you from someone. If you don’t receive it, be happy you just accomplished a truly selfless act – the one of giving and not expecting to receive anything in return. Oh, the beauty. Isn’t that what truly matters in life?