I rarely get excited when I go to the mailbox these days since it’s usually filled with mailers, bills and a seemingly friendly spider who’s taken up residence in the back corner! But some days I get lucky and amongst all that “junk” I spot a treasure–a small handwritten envelope. Who could it be from? Which of my friends would take the time to sit down amidst their own chaos with a pen in hand and share how grateful and appreciative they are. Once I make my mental list I gently retrieve the note to investigate. I feel the paper and check out the stamp, and yes the stamp matters. I look to see if I recognize the handwriting without peeking at the return address in the left-hand corner. It’s a moment for me…

Usually I wait some time before I open the note, sort of like waiting until after the birthday dinner to open up the presents. Other times I open the note when I need that little kick of happy during my day. For me, receiving a thank you note really feels just like I am being given a gift; wrapped in paper and tied with a zip code and a stamp on top!

As a young girl I recall thank you notes were a necessity. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it, my sister and I had to write thank you notes for every gift we received. So when I became a mom I played that “card” too. Of course I put my own spin on it–there was no playing, using or spending until a thank you note was in the mail. As you might have suspected with me being a teacher and writer, there were other rules as well. The thank you note had to be heartfelt, longer than three sentences and worthy of the reader’s time. It may surprise you but I never checked or corrected grammar, spelling or punctuation. I felt that helped keep the note authentic and endearing. Oh I know, my poor kids–but to this day, that is a mom rule I am still pretty proud of. 

Thanks to a lifetime of thank you notes our family is a bunch of thank you note snobs. I admit that we often times judge the notes that enter our home with our unspoken grading system. The ultimate goal of a thank you note is to make the recipient feel the writer’s gratitude. If the card produces tears–A+. Humor always raises the grade, as does referencing a shared personal moment. If there is never so much as a mention of what the actual gift was–D!  Seriously, don’t even waste a stamp on a note like that! 

Sadly, it seems thank you notes are becoming a thing of the past as younger generations are thanking with a text, snapchat, #thank you or email. I suppose it doesn’t really matter just so long as there is a proper thank you, right? Actually, some of my most memorable thank yous happened right on the spot! Many years ago my kids and I ordered six munchkins and when they opened the bag they found over a dozen. The note on the bag read, “Thanks for being so polite.” Or the time the Verizon phone person waived a fee for me saying, “That’s for being so patient and kind.” 

Being a children’s author my favorite thank you notes of all might be those received from children after I have visited their school. It might be their crayon artwork that adorns the front. It could be their sentiment filled with “invented” spelling words. Maybe I should be a little worried how their pictures depict me, but I’m not. I’m just tickled pink that they took time out of their jampacked school day to write a few heartfelt sentences that often bring about a tear or two! A+

Heartfelt thank you notes from the children at West Rock Authors Academy in New Haven, Connecticut

Moral: It doesn’t matter how you say thank you–just so long as you do!


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