I grew up in a middle income home in middle America. We were certainly not what you would call “fancy.” I’m pretty sure what we used as a “butter knife” for most of my life was actually a fish knife. But when it came to thank you etiquette, you would have thought my mother was educated by Emily Post herself.
For every present I received on my birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, you name it, I was forced to sit down and pen a handwritten thank you card. If my grandparents sent me a check, I was to explain what I was going to do with the generous gift. The note was required to be more than two to three sentences. I could talk about what I was learning at school or Girl Scouts or general life tidbits if I needed to fill up space. Even though I was required to write the thank you cards, they were to never sound forced or as if I weren’t truly thankful.
And it didn’t stop when I left the house: During my first year of college, I remember my mom calling a few days after my birthday and asking if I had sent thank you cards yet. She was diligent.
I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point her imposed tradition became a habit of my own. Now in my 30s, I still send a thank you card—via real snail mail—for every gift I receive, including flowers, bottles of wine or gift cards. I’m not always incredibly prompt (I have yet to send thank yous for my Christmas gifts this year, but the cards and stamps are ready and waiting), but it always gets done. I think it’s the right thing to do: My mother taught me so, so it must be true; plus, people so rarely get cards anymore that I think it’s an even more meaningful, important gesture.
So imagine my surprise when I saw a Facebook acquaintance asking about thank you cards and many, many people chimed in saying they’re unnecessary now. “An email is the same” and “I just say thank you via social media” were the types of replies. I did not know this person well enough to all caps scream in the comments, “NO. NO. YOU ALL ARE WRONG AND WRITTEN THANK YOU CARDS ARE AS NECESSARY AS EVER IN 2019.”
I’m saying it here: Thank you cards are important. Yes, it’s nice to say thank you via email or social media. But if someone took the time to consider a special something just for you and spent their own money on said gift, the least you can do is put pen to paper and tell them how much you appreciate it. Notecards are cheap and stamps cost … actually, I have no idea because it changes too often and all mine say FOREVER, but not a lot! Less than a dollar! (I think??)
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The only thing I can see stopping people from expressing their gratitude via the old-fashioned way is laziness. I am not a Luddite by any means: I read books mostly from my Kindle, I replaced my traditional timepiece with an Apple watch a couple years ago, and I have an Alexa in almost every room. I’m all for technology improving our lives and changing the way we do things. But not when it comes at the expense of kind gestures to others.
So with the holidays just a couple weeks behind us, I implore you: Send thank you notes to your friends and family. You’ll make them happy when they get an actual card in the mail. And you’ll make my mother happy.
(P.S. If my mother ever sent you a shower or wedding gift and you didn’t send a thank you, she most definitely remembers. There is still time to right that wrong.)