My younger daughter's senior year in high school was a little bit of a joke. I admit, I hadn't been paying that much attention -- I thought we had counselors to do that -- but her story was that she had taken all the credits she needed to graduate, and that basically her whole educational responsibility consisted of going to a single English class. One hour, gate to gate.
It was a little disconcerting, thinking that this was the generation that was about to take over the world. She barely got out of bed.
Oh, she did make it to English class, often in what I believe were her pajamas. But were they reading world literature, doing research papers, writing the great teen novel? No. They were learning to write thank-you notes. Isn't that a curriculum appropriate for an eight-year-old?
We went round and round about this, and she won, of course. The real kicker came at graduation, well, really, post-graduation party, when my neighbor made a point of catching me backing out of driveway specifically to tell me that she had received a letter from Afton -- and, goodness, did that girl know how to write a thank-you note! She has never let me forget it.
The Short Course in Expressing Gratitude
I'm going to shorten that last semester for you: writing a thank you note is as easy as 1-2-3.
1. Address the giver / hostess / friend as "Dear" and open the note with a reference to the specific gift or kindness about which you are writing. An example: "Thank you so much for the lovely dinner you treated us to the other night."
2. Add a little something about how much you enjoyed the gift / kindness / hospitality. Something like: "This was the perfect book to take to the beach, and I was hooked from the get-go."
3. Your closing should be something personable and friendly (I look forward to seeing you at our family reunion this summer), and it doesn't hurt to mention your gratitude again. Sign off with something warm -- if not "Thanks again for thinking of me," then something like "Warm wishes." There, it's done!
The Modern Thank-You Note
Some experts want you to embellish your notes with a little news, but I am personally a true believer in the pure thank-you note -- single-minded, purposeful, heartfelt. It works for anything from a large endowment to a light lunch. Keep it simple, I say. But make it prompt.
There's a tendency to write thank-you email,s which is of course technically fine -- but there is NOTHING like a written, mailed thank-you note to show that you are a civilized person, capable of wondrous things -- like finding a stamp and getting to a mailbox.
Seriously, if you've gotten a good thank-you note, you know how much it means. The secret is how little it takes -- although if you want to turn this into a high school semester I'm here to say, it can be done.
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