Written Notes of Gratitude: Reviving a Lost Art

As a young mom, I remember hearing a rule of thumb on children’s birthday parties: If your guests are present when you open gifts, you needn’t write thank you notes. I also remember being surprised when I heard this was a sloppy approach to parenting. 

Is this a teaching moment?

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”  
– William Arthur Ward

Feeling appreciated is often what motivates us to repeat the same behavior. Therefore, expressing your thanks is not only proper etiquette, it’s also a great way to pay it forward and ensure that these same acts of kindness will be bestowed on others again and again.

Thank you notes or, more eloquently put, letters of gratitude, are becoming a lost art. But they shouldn’t be written merely for tangible gifts. Here are just a few intangible reasons for which a child might consider penning a letter to his or her generous benefactor.

• For the teacher who works to help him qualify for the honors program 

• For the classmate who takes notes all day for a friend when she is absent 

• For the coach who meets with him on weekends to help him better his game

• For the music instructor who accompanies her on her own time at a competition 

• For the neighbor who “hires” him for spare jobs here and there

• For the friend who comes over with clothes and helps her dress for her first day at a new school

• For the nurses who recreate trick-or-treating at the doctor’s office because he is too sick to celebrate Halloween

• For the scout leader who makes an extra costume for her so she won’t feel left out at the party

Author’s Note: All of the above are non-fiction examples from the lives of my children.

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