by Linda Stubblefield
(Taken from a 1999 Christian Womanhood Article)
My neighbors have recently had several catastrophic events come into their lives. Thinking about the hurts that have come into their lives has brought back good memories. When we moved to 7716 Independence, Harold was the first person to greet us. We were unloading items from the back of a pickup, and he came strolling across our yard with his hand outstretched. After welcoming us, he invited us to his church. Needless to say, we were impressed.
We have lived at 7716 Independence for 13 years now. In times of need, Harold has come through for us—with a pair of needle-nosed pliers, a set of handlebars for our lawn mower, advice, and good, old-fashioned neighborliness.
Recently, Harold was diagnosed with cancer. It was one of those sudden things where neighbors don’t have time to react. He had surgery and is now recuperating away from home. So it was that while my husband was making our lunch on the grill, he was able to talk to Norma, Harold’s wife. She told David everything that was happening with our friend Harold.
Then she added a “by the way.” “By the way, David…I was really impressed with your daughter. She sent me a beautiful thank you for the graduation gift we gave her. She told me what I gave her and how she planned to use it, and she got it to me quickly. I can’t tell you how many gifts I have given where I’ve been lucky to get a thank you. If I do get one, I get it four months later, and the person can’t even tell me what I gave. That’s quite a girl you’ve reared.”
Norma’s daughter, who was listening to the conversation and doesn’t know our family, chimed in, “Yeah! That girl is going to go places in life.”
When David shared the conversation with me, I have to admit that I felt a little pride in my daughter’s display of gratitude. When I came home from work, she told me how many thank you’s she had written that day. Out of my mouth came the same litany I have heard for years: “If someone can take the time to give you a gift, you can at least take the time to write a thank-you note.” I have tried to help her through the years about thanking grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents through the years and how much you appreciate and have learned from their friendship of a lifetime.
To date, our daughter has sent a thank you for every gift received. I have come to the conclusion that writing thank-you notes is a chore that most can dismiss from their minds with no second thoughts. “Why?” I wondered.
The second conclusion at which I have arrived is that folks do not know how to write a thank-you note. Who wants to hear, “Thank you for the lovely gift. It was very thoughtful of you.” Teens know that when they deliver a note into the hand of a giver with lackluster words, they have only performed their chore. Still, politeness and courtesy make that type of note better than none at all.
The key to writing thank-you notes is to make a connection. The note is to say, “I appreciate you.” As Melissa prepared to do her notes, I gave her some definite guidelines. As a result, we know our neighbor Norma was warmly appreciative of Melissa’s handwritten note. In fact, her daughter stopped me and said, “My mom hasn’t gotten over your daughter’s letter. My mom thinks she ought to give her a second gift because of that thank you note.” What do you say to that kind of praise?!
The following are some ideas I gave Melissa to help her with her notes of appreciation.
-Tell the giver what a blessing he has been to your friends for gifts received.
-Know what the person gave. Keep a record of the gift received with as many identifying factors as possible.
-Tell how you are going to use the gift. You could say, “I am planning to wear the luxurious mauve sweater this weekend to church.”
-Tell why the gift was important to you. Perhaps you received a cash gift and you plan to use it for your college education. Tell the giver. He has played a part in helping you prepare for your future.
-Think about the giver. Maybe the person is not your personal friend. Perhaps the giver is a close friend of your parents.
-Tell the giver what he needs and wants to hear. Through the years, Mrs. Evans has taught that every person needs acceptance, attention, approval, and affection. A gift giver needs the same affirmation. He needs to know that his gift is acceptable and that you approve of what he chose for you.
-Most importantly, do your duty and write your thank-you notes. No matter how wearing it is, no matter that it can seem to be a full-time job, do what it takes to be appreciative. After all, you surely enjoyed opening all of those gifts! Therefore, your goal is to let the giver know that you remember his gift, and that gift matters to you. And, remember the giver.
I cannot open my Bible and find one place where it says, “Thou shalt write thank-you notes when you receive a gift.” I wish I could. However, the principle of being grateful is obvious throughout the Bible. “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever.” (I Chronicles 16:34) “And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.” (Mark 8:6) Jesus gave thanks for the gift of the seven loaves. “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20) “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) Over 135 times the Bible uses some form of the word thank.
Let’s show our gratitude. Only one leper came back to thank Jesus for his healing.
Editor’s Note: My goal is to not take time to use a gift until I have time to thank the person for the gift. I don’t always reach that goal, and it bothers me when I don’t.