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How thankful are you? Thoughts on talking turkey from Isabel Swift

November 25, 2010 by in category From Isabel Swift tagged as , with 1 and 0
Home > Columns > From Isabel Swift > How thankful are you? Thoughts on talking turkey from Isabel Swift
Thank you notes—the lack of them—was one of the key complaints about children in a recent conversation with a remarkably varied series of mothers I’d been speaking to.
Mommie Dearest aside, you don’t have to be an abusive parent to expect a child (or anyone) to respond to a gift with appreciation.  I wasn’t allowed to go out and play if I hadn’t finished my thank you notes for Christmas presents by the first week in January. While it was tedious, I really didn’t see it as an inappropriate expectation of my parents.  Now I send my thank you notes as Valentine cards—a little late, but decorative!
And when I got old enough to actually send presents, it became very clear how nice getting a note was—if only to reassure you that your gift was actually received!  With no response, one can spend months vacillating between resentment toward the recipient, concern that the package had been lost, and angst about whether one should contact the person & ask the embarrassing question:  
“Did you get the present I sent months ago?” 
“Oh, yeah.  Sorry!  I guess I should have said something…”  
Yeah.  That would have been nice.
Even as one mother was complaining of the effort she made to find her nephews and nieces things she thought they’d like and how ungrateful they were and unthanked she was, I was thinking of the presents I’d given her children for which I’d never gotten any thanks or acknowledgment. Funny how easy it is to notice failures in others and not in yourself, isn’t it? 
I asked her if she’d written thank you notes herself as a child.  She’d written some, but mentioned that her godmother used to give her beautiful treasures that she still cherished, but had never thanked her for.

Suddenly, after complaining about others, she realized she’d been just as guilty. She wondered if the statute of limitations had expired, but in my opinion thanks have no expiration date. You can send a thank you years later, and it will still be fresh—and possibly even more appreciated. Go for it. And she did.

In these days of endless communication options, there’s no excuse, but remarkably little activity.  And really, not much is required:  “Just got your lovely gift—thank you so much for thinking of me!” is really all that is needed.  Yes, it would be nice to reference the actual object & mention why it will be enjoyed (if indeed it is).  But details are not required, and neither are falsehoods.  
I believe in telling the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth.  So if you hate the gift for whatever reason, all you need to do is thank the giver for the kind thought.  Note, postcard, email, voice mail (hey, you can even call when you know they won’t be there!). 
It was interesting to note that this issue of lack of acknowledgement has been the subject of articles with business interviews as well.  
So just as we may wish for Christmas cheer to last beyond the holidays, it is worth asking…can you be thankful all year long?
Did you have to write thank you notes? Do you write them now? Did you raise your children to write thank you notes?

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    on November 25, 2010

    I'm a huge believer in thank you notes. Even emails will do, though handwritten is better. Pet peeve: Not receiving thank you notes for wedding presents. You wonder: Did it even arrive?

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