A lovely card arrived this week for my husband, a thank-you note (real paper, lovely image, hand-written in pen) from a young female photographer whose work he had commissioned for a New York Times photo essay.
If you think thank-you notes — no, not thank you tweets or emails — are passe, think again.
If you really want to make an impression, consider the quaint, old-fashioned elegance of writing, stamping and mailing a thank-you note.
Whenever I leave home for a few days or longer, I carry personal stationery and some thank-you cards with me, so I never have an excuse not to write a thank-you note, to someone who hosted me for dinner or helped with my book or gave me a work tip.
Even U.S. President Barack Obama was recently chastised by Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, for being insufficiently grateful:
Stories abound of big donors who stopped giving as much or working as hard because Obama never reached out, either with a Clinton-esque warm bath of attention or Romney-esque weekend love fests and Israeli-style jaunts; of celebrities who gave concerts for his campaigns and never received thank-you notes or even his full attention during the performance; of public servants upset because they knocked themselves out at the president’s request and never got a pat on the back; of V.I.P.’s disappointed to get pictures of themselves with the president with the customary signature withheld; of politicians disaffected by the president’s penchant for not letting members of Congress or local pols stand on stage with him when he’s speaking in their state (they often watch from the audience and sometimes have to lobby just to get a shout-out); of power brokers, local and national, who felt that the president insulted them by never seeking their advice or asking them to come to the White House or ride along in the limo for a schmooze.
Care and feeding has been outsourced to Joe Biden, who loves it, but it doesn’t build the same kind of loyalty as when the president does it.
“He comes from the neediest profession of all, except for acting, but he is not needy and he doesn’t fully understand the neediness of others; it’s an abstraction to him,” says Jonathan Alter, who wrote “The Promise” about Obama’s first year in office and is working on a sequel. “He’s not an ungracious person, but he can be guilty of ingratitude. It’s not a politically smart way for him to operate.
I say “thank you” a lot.
And mean it.
I say it to my husband, several times a day — for cooking dinner, or sweeping the balcony or just being a loving and devoted partner. We will not be sharing life forever, so better to voice my gratitude to him while I can.
A man whose vision changed my life, by creating a journalism fellowship I did in Paris at 25, died November 27, 1986. I found out when I returned to the Montreal Gazette newsroom, where I was then a feature writer, and burst into tears when the operator handed me the message.
In June 2007, I finally had the chance to thank him, by traveling to the small Breton town of Concarneau. I searched for his grave in vain for an hour, in broiling heat, before asking the guard to show it to me. I sat beside his stone and kept him company. I wanted to pay my respects, to thank him for the life he helped make possible for me.
Years ago, a former journalism student of mine — she had been very beautiful and lazy, often coasting, as she knew she could, on her looks and charm — sent me a thank-you note, finally understanding and grateful for why I’d been so tough and demanding as her teacher. She now had a very good journalism job, one that set the bar much higher than she’d expected, and she now saw why I’d been such a hard-ass, trying to prep them all for unforgiving editors, like the ones I’ve always had.
That note meant a lot!
Every day someone — the guy making your deli sandwich or doing your dry-cleaning or the woman who drives your bus this morning — is making our lives a little better. Maybe it’s a friend, neighbor, relative, professor or teacher who, even by their words or actions a decade or so ago, did or said something that smoothed our path or soothed our souls.
We need to say thank you.
Here’s a lovely blog post recently featured on Freshly Pressed by a woman, now a teacher, who wrote to thank one of her early teachers — who gave her a D on a paper.
I’ve now been to a few funerals, and far more than I’d like. It’s too easy to eulogize the dead, heaping them with praise and thanksgiving.
Do it today.