It doesn’t take a whole lot of reflection for me as a mom to determine that gratitude is the single most important lesson I seek to teach my children. Being grateful in my own life brings me happiness every single day—and it makes me feel whole. And so it follows that I want my children to be able to appreciate a gesture, something beautiful, a feeling, an opportunity, a laugh—and have a conscious awareness that these moments are good for far more than a smile. They fuel happiness. And once my kids know this, the conscious part of that knowledge will inevitably lead to a habit of expressing gratitude. I could go on and on about how gratitude spreads happiness, but then you might suspect that sage burns in my home while a wrist-full of groovy bangles clinks away on my keyboard and New Age Muzak plays in the background as I type these words. I’m actually sitting here in a sweatshirt and jeans in my very traditionally furnished living room listening to that brilliant Gotye song “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
Still, I really do believe that spreading gratitude early and often is some kind of key to the universe. Here are three thank you card ideas along with some thoughts on how to make your handwritten appreciation make both you and the recipient feel really whole.
Thank You for the Gift
If you’re even reading this, you’re probably not the kind of person who has to be told that email doesn’t cut it for saying thanks when you’ve received a gift. (Though you may have a person in mind who does need to hear it, and for that person, simply share this piece on Facebook.) A handwritten note is essential—and if it’s scrawled on a personalized card that features a photo, your thank you is that much more meaningful.
Every little detail that adds to the customization of your card makes your appreciation come through in earnest. Think of the thank you notes you’ve received: the ones printed with a generic “Thank You” on the front may be propped up on your mantel for a few days till you dust. One with a photo will make it to the fridge and be a part of a pictorial collage that may last a year or more, acting as a reminder of a really nice personal transaction that took place between you and the person who gave you something nice. That’s good for a lot of good feelings.
Thank You for the Gesture
Say a friend goes out of his or her way to call you from Starbucks and ask if you want your usual. This friend is a keeper. But say it happens to be on a day when your commute was horrific because of torrential rain and you could probably rattle off six other crappy things that happened since your alarm went off. This friend is a saint. You arrive in your office with soggy feet and a bad attitude and then you see your steaming cup waiting for you. You could send an email, sure. But what if you have a box of personalized thank you notes in your desk drawer? I’m not suggesting you write a sappy letter of gratitude. But an “OMG HOW DID YOU KNOW? THANK YOU for saving my day. It started off bad, got worse, and then: POOF! You brought me coffee. YOU RULE.”
Okay, maybe your natural way of speaking is far different from mine, but you get the point. That thank you note will stay propped on your friend’s desk and remain a reminder of something nice for far longer than the three minutes it would last in any email inbox before being buried by a barrage of requests and reminders. Not only will you likely put that friend’s number in your cell so you can return the favor sometime, that friend will be 10 times more likely to do you a solid again. This is all good stuff.
Thank You for the Thought
Okay, it’s possible that it’s just getting late, but now “Bronte” by Gotye is playing, and it’s making me think of some of the people I love most in my life. Maybe I do veer toward the sentimental sometimes, but, well, I guess I’m proud of that. Anyway, if you’re wired at all like I am, songs like this remind you of how the people you love—close friends and family members—are always with you, lifting you up. Hopefully you have lots of moments like this—so many that you couldn’t possibly reach out and say some kind of thanks every time.
But once in a while, it’s nice to jot a note to that person and just tell them that you heard a song or had a laugh or saw a painting or met someone who reminded you of them. Again, it doesn’t have to be a long or even detailed note. The shorter the better, in fact. That way you’ll be less likely to procrastinate on these things, and more likely to scrawl your train-of-thought appreciation, seal it up, and send it off.
While it would be tragic to not have songs like “Somebody I Used to Know” that trace the painful arc of unrequited love, perhaps more expressions of gratitude would make happy relationships that much more common.
Say thank you. Your mother taught you well. Make her proud.
When do you send thank you notes? I’d love to hear your thank you card ideas for how to share gratitude generously.