The Night the Thank You Card Died

Last night I was part of an interesting online discussion that started and later deteriorated and eventually got deleted. I wish debates in forums like that could be left untouched, because while I was reading it, the discussion was frank and open and unlike many forum style threads of conversation, it  was interesting. No one was getting verbally abused or having a hissy fit. It was just a good discussion. Then when I checked in to see if there were new comments on the thread a few minutes ago, the whole thing had evaporated into the ether.

The issue posed at the beginning was about thank you cards. It started as a “rant” with someone saying she wasn’t attending anymore bridal or baby showers because people don’t send out thank you cards anymore, and she was fed up with the attitude. I was intrigued because I love to send and receive things in the mail, so I read on.

People weighed in, and there was a range of opinions from some who send cards and others who thought a verbal thanks was enough, or an email. And then there was at least one person who never opens their thank you card when they receive one in the mail – they just throw it in the garbage because they know what it says thanks without having to open it. That “throw away”attitude prompted me to weigh in.

I said that I like getting mail that I don’t have to pay (like a bill), and so I appreciated a thank you card. More than being a piece of simple mail, to me a thank you card means that someone appreciated something I gave them or helped them with, and that they took the time to express their gratitude.
I like gratitude. Expressing it or receiving it, when it’s genuinely shared, feels good. There is plenty of negativity, lots of bad news, and an abundance of grumpy people in the world – why not share some gratitude and spread a little light? Besides, grateful people live longer than grumpy people and one day I want to be really, really old and dancing up a storm someplace.

I also said that when I send a card to someone, I often tuck a little gift into it, like a lottery ticket, or a cheque, or more recently, a mini-facial treatment. The person who doesn’t open their cards normally said, quite cheerfully, that they might be missing out and perhaps should check the cards they get in the future (or maybe it was just cards from me. I can’t recall exactly!).

One commenter said that the postage for thank you cards after her wedding was going to cost over $300. That got me thinking that she had perhaps entertained a lot of people at her wedding, or she was sending a lot of international cards. Either way, it should be part of your wedding budget that you plan for this (although I kept my thoughts to myself about this in the original thread). That’s about the same kind of money I used to spend sending Christmas cards in my card writing heyday, and a budget is necessary. My daughter attended four weddings in just under a year and half the couples sent thank you cards and half didn’t. Being my daughter, she sent hers quite quickly following her own wedding. (Thanks for that Mrs.L.)

I come from a long line of letter writers and card senders, I admit. Maybe that’s why the idea that so many people won’t express gratitude in a simple card makes me think so hard. When I was away doing army stuff or lived far from home (before social media), my mum and sister would send these long letters that took them a whole week to work on. They paid extra postage to send these fat little envelopes to me. Our nana sent me letters where she wrote all around the edges of the page to squeeze in as much as she could. They would all tuck in a poem or a sticker or a quote to add a bit of fun. They took time, and shared love, to share themselves with me. The essence of these letters are the types of posts people make on social media now – they’d share news about a good book, a funny movie, a new hand cream, a good recipe, a picture of the kids or the dog or both. They kept me connected to their lives by sharing, and it meant a lot to me. I feel the same way about people who share gratitude by saying a simple thank you. It means a lot, and I think it’s underutilized in our lives.
A thank you card (as opposed to saying thank you in person or an equally evil idea, which is sending a thank you by text message) isn’t just a connection. It’s reaching across space and time for a brief moment as the writer simply says, “thanks for thinking of me today” or “thanks for the gift – it means a lot” or they might get really into it and squish all kinds of feelings onto a 3 x 4 inch card.
I see writing a thank you note as holding so much potential to connect people; an expression of the writer, and how the writer feels about the person they prepare it for.  

I want to ask your thoughts on this, even though there are only a few of you who read this blog or comment. I want to invite you to share your thoughts (keep them polite, please). I think this discussion is really important, because it leads to that bigger notion of gratitude and connectedness. What do you think? Is the thank you card dead? What about sympathy, thinking of you, missing you, birthday cards, Christmas cards? 

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