In a world of electronic communications, how often do you receive handwritten letters or cards in the mail? What is your reaction when you find a hand addressed envelope mixed with your bills and junk mail?
Are you upset and grumbling or does it bring a smile to your face? I’m expecting you inspect the envelope, look at the return address, and immediately think of the person and smile.
There is a rush of positive feelings that somehow is lost with emails, social media posts and text messaging. Yes, they are all ways of communicating, but the handwritten note stands apart from the rest.
Now think about when the last time was you sent someone a handwritten note. A birthday card, letter or, even rarer, a thank you note.
I recently purchased a package of thank you notes and stamps, making a commitment to send personalized notes to people who have impacted me in a positive way. I started by sending thank you notes to the parents and professionals who shared their insights and advice for my two patient advocacy books.
I felt so good after I mailed these thank you notes, that I began thinking of who else I was grateful for.
Our family doctor who goes out of his way to take the time to talk to our son at his level and make sure he understands what he’s going to do and why (versus just looking into his ears and mouth). He turns it into a game, often saying “phew, there are no dinosaurs in that ear. Let’s check the other” while my son laughs away. This from a child who had previously been terrified of yet another medical examine.
As I continued writing thank you notes to medical professionals, educational support and my parents, I thought — why has it taken me so long to do this? In writing the notes, I thought about each person and the impact they have had on my family and me. I got a rush of positive emotions and spent the rest of the day smiling. It wasn’t about getting a reaction from them, but rather taking the time to acknowledge and be grateful for those who have provided support.
I know some of you are thinking, this all sounds great but who has the time. Or, these people are getting paid, it’s their job.
Gratitude is a gift that’s free to give but one that is rarely given.
Writing a thank you card only takes a couple of minutes. I’m not asking you to write two page letters. Just a quick note on what you are grateful for and your name. That’s it. Easy peasy.
I encourage you to start small. Buy a package of thank you notes and send one a week. Then, when the package is gone, how do you feel? Did you enjoy the experience or was it painful? How did it change your interactions with the people who received the cards?
And who knows? One day you might receive a thank you card in the mail which will make your day.