click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




Long Live Thank You Notes
Mom with a View

Long Live Thank You Notes

If we can't be bothered to write a real thank you note, how grateful are we really?

by

In the age of email, does anyone write thank you notes anymore? Are thank you notes just an anachronistic holdover from our parent's or grandparent's time or do they continue to have real relevance?

Nancy Kirk, 61, believes they still play a meaningful role in our lives. She recommends writing one a day.

"If you can't think of one person to thank every day, you aren't paying attention."

We have so much to be grateful for; a hasty email suggests we probably don't fully appreciate it. The email can be typed and the send button hit before we've even had time to assimilate the idea behind it.

But if we handwrite a thank you note, we are forced to stop and think. What kindness did we receive? From who? Why? How do we express what it meant to us?

Only through our own investment of time and thought are we able to truly be grateful.

This is a lesson we all need to take to heart. When we receive a thank you note, we know we feel appreciated -- whether we sent a gift, cooked a meal, or helped out at an event. The note says "I noticed" and "I appreciate it." The note says "Your kindness means something, you mean something."

Not saying thank you betrays a sense of entitlement, a self-centered expectation of what is due me. This is not the road to closeness with other human beings or with our Creator. Yet through such a simple action as writing a thank you note, we can bridge the distance.

Our children particularly need to learn this skill. A sincere THK U can not be conveyed through a text message. You liked the presents? Now sit down and write the notes. (I did once allow a child with atrocious handwriting to dictate the notes to his sister who was willing to actually write them for a small fee!) Figure out what to say, try to vary them slightly -- and make them personal.

Were they at your celebration? Did you enjoy having them there? Were they unable to attend? Did you miss them? Was their gift just what you needed? Did they make you a meal after you gave birth? Do you want the recipe for that delicious corn dish?

Doing acts of kindness requires careful thought as to the real needs of the recipient; appreciating them demands no less.

The more custom-tailored the note, the more personal. The more the note is written with thoughtfulness and consideration, then the more the giver feels appreciated.

And thank you notes are better for us. We appreciate more and understand more deeply the kindness done for us when we have to take the time to express it in words.

The effort: one thank you note a day. The ultimate benefit: priceless.

Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 28

(27) Anonymous, May 12, 2016 11:13 PM

Handwritten but not necessarily mailed

I agree that saying thank you is non-negotiable. Some people don't have long memories – thus a verbal thank you is quickly forgotten. I use email thank you's, when I am at work, to acknowledge good service received from another company. But emails don't have a very long “life span” - they are read and deleted, or they disappear between all the other emails and are forgotten. My own colleagues and staff members always get a handwritten note though. “Tony, it was so considerate of you to carry the heavy box for me, thank you!” “Eva, it was so thoughtful of you to make a cup of coffee for me when I was busy with that urgent report! Much appreciated!” “Tom, thank you for being so generous to share your secret little trick on how to replace that cartridge with me! No more dirty hands – whooo-hooo!” Written on cute little notepads of 4 x 3 inches (7 x 10cm) and stuck under their keyboard. A physical note is more appreciated and are usually kept much longer. Over the years, many people have admitted that they collect and keep these notes, some even admitted that they re-read it whenever they have a difficult day. Mailing a thank you for a gift is great, but when acknowledging the small things people do for us every day, just a folded piece of paper is also good. To the Hotel Reception, written on a 4 x 3” notepad paper: “Eden, your friendliness and cheerful “Shalom” made us feel welcome every day – thank you! You helped to make our holiday idyllic. Looking forward to seeing you next time we are in Israel!”, folded in half with “Eden” written on the back and given to him on our departure. A thank you note is not only about me, expressing my appreciation - it is also a GIFT from me to them, as I am building their self-esteem, validating the person that they are, that they are kind, thoughtful and generous and thereby saying indirectly that THEY matter to me, since I have noticed this beautiful character trait, not just what I received from them.

(26) res a. p., December 3, 2008 10:08 AM

Thank You means thinking of you...the receiver will appreciate it with gladness...

(25) Devorah, November 30, 2008 6:39 AM

Thank you notes outdated-why?

Mrs Braverman has once again discussed a timely topic. I am a great advocate of the 'Thank you note'. It appears that nowadays 'Thank you' notes are passe. Perhaps it is time to outdate presents? Sorry, but the argument, 'I received too many presents,' doesn't quite cut it. Someone went to the trouble to think about what gift to purchase, go out, look for the present, spend the money to buy it, wrap it up and deliver it. That took a good deal more time than thanking them. Thank you notes as a basic expression of appreciation seem to be a lost art. My son recently turned bar mitzva and he wrote a handwritten thank you for every gift he received. It took time but he wrote a few each night and before long they were all done. The pleasantly surprised reactions made me realise how unusual it is nowadays to receive a thank you letter. Whilst personalised handwritten thank you notes can't be beat (I have one that my twelve year old niece sent a month ago and it is so sweet and personal I can't bring myself to throw it out), I think that any expression of gratitude, be it email or a phone call is certainly adequate. Before we bemoan the ungrateful generation that we are bringing up, it is time to model and enforce correct behaviours. We need not look far in the Torah to find that Hakoras Hatov (appreciation) is a fundamental principle of a Torah true life. (Aaron, not Moses was chosen to smite the Nile and bring forth the plagues from the water as Moses had been sheltered by the water when he was placed there as an infant in a reed basket by his sister, Miriam, and therefore owed the water , an inanimate being, appreciation!) Finally, gratitude notwithstanding, sometimes the thank you note is the only way of knowing that the gift actually reached the recipient.

(24) Anonymous, November 30, 2008 3:57 AM

Absolutely!

I agree 100%... I have always felt that the personal touch inherent in a hand-written thank-you note can never be imitated in an email or other electronic device.

(23) Anonymous, November 27, 2008 1:49 PM

Thanking by email

A really thankful individual shoul be able to appreciate a "Thank you" note sent either by email or by regular mail. In both cases, the sender has gone to the trouble of thinking, composing, and editing his note while thinking about you. And by the way, it takes less effort to just buy a thank you note from the store than to make yourself vulnerable at expressing your own feelings.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub