And furthermore...

Last week I campaigned for punctuality, and as I finished the article, I thought, “I’m not finished yet. I have a few more things to say about how to raise children.”

Since graduation, several people have talked to me about thank you notes. Are they defunct? Does anyone really write them anymore?

One friend said to me, “I sent out fifteen checks to children of friends and relatives and have not gotten one single thank you note. Is it acceptable these days just to say thank you in an email or in person? This situation is bothering me a bit. Maybe I’m just getting old and out of touch with this generation. I do know that nobody writes letters anymore. I can’t even remember the last time I got a letter or wrote one, for that matter.”

Back in the good old days when I was in high school, the writing of thank you notes was actively taught just before graduation. Furthermore, teachers stressed the necessity of them. Ann Landers, a legendary advice columnist, said that the art of writing thank you notes is a discipline we need to practice and teach our kids. Today’s culture screams, “Please me, satisfy me, make me happy.” Thank you notes train us to appreciate other people and writing a few of them will train kids, too. Kids will complain and resist, but that’s their nature. They do that for almost everything we force them to do. That’s a part of growing up. Thank you notes are teaching them to be thoughtful and respect others. You will be doing them a favor.

Not everyone agrees with me of course. Some folks say they are obsolete and no longer necessary. One newspaper printed a wedding notice, a beautiful wedding picture, and the following statement: “In lieu of sending personal thank-you notes for wedding gifts, the couple made a donation to the American Cancer Society.”

Now that is the lazy way out. Instead of performing the tedious task of sitting down and writing notes, the couple is trying to buy a way out. It seems to me that if someone goes to the trouble and expense of purchasing a gift for the couple, the very least they could do is write a note of appreciation. It’s totally inexcusable.

Ann Landers once suggested a quick course in appreciation. She said one grandmother sent gifts to all her grandchildren every year but never received thanks of any kind. Landers suggested she send them cards the next Christmas, reading: “Ann Landers says I must not continue to feed Gimme Pigs. She claims that I am sending the wrong message. She says people should not be rewarded for bad manners. I found it hard not to buy you a gift this year, but I decided that Ann Landers was right. I love you as much as always and hope you have a happy Christmas.”

Earlier I mentioned that the fine art of letter writing was taught when I was in school back in the dark ages. I am not suggesting that the burden of thank you notes be handed over to teachers. Heaven knows too many of society’s ills have been turned over to them for repair, usually to no avail. If parents can’t or won’t fix this thank you note issue, then teachers won’t be able to either. They should mention them in class around graduation time though. English class seems the logical place for that. Emphasize also that if they write thank you notes, they should use the King’s English, not texting English. It would be nice if the recipient were able to read the note. Here are a couple of examples:

Dear Fey Carter Hardy,

I appreciate the package you sent me with the book and other notes inside. Thank you for thinking of me. As you well know from my columns, not many things exist that I like better than books. I consider one the perfect gift for me. Your kindness made my day.

Dear Jean,

Thank you for the lovely card you sent me and the messages to convey to the bridge players. We sadly watched you move away to be closer to your children. We miss you, especially at the bridge table and at church. I hope you have found a bridge group to fill in for us. Thanks for thinking of us, and tomorrow I will deliver your message. You will always hold a place with us, should you decide to visit.

Don’t forget to sign the notes by hand, not on the computer.

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