By Heather Smith
Three months of marriage is not enough to hone expertise in most areas of married life, but it has sharpened my skill in one small area: the writing of thank you notes. As of a few weeks ago, I had written well over 200 of them in conjunction with my wedding. Being prone to ponder deeply upon even mundane tasks, I naturally found myself musing over the art of the thank you as I compelled my throbbing hand to scrawl out “just one more” before resting. But what really made me contemplate this topic was the number of people who thanked me for their thank you notes.
I began to realize that people truly are moved by sincere expressions of gratitude. Furthermore, like any other art, writing such notes is not an innate ability, but rather one that can be learned and heightened through thoughtful practice. Writing lovely, true, kind thank you notes is good for author and recipient alike. It honors the gift-giver’s generosity while training the receiver in graceful humility, and it ultimately speaks to the value of human beings over material gifts.
My habit of thank you note writing began early under the tutelage of a mother who made sure I wrote a thank you note for every Christmas and birthday gift. No doubt many of these were simplistic, but in my high school years, thank you notes often became an outlet for my burgeoning rhetorical skills. I remember one in particular, written in thanks for a glass apple, in which I waxed eloquent about how viewing the bubbles suspended within the glass inspired me to ponder the rare quiet moments that seemed suspended in time . . . or some similar over-the-top philosophizing.
I expanded my habit of gratitude during my college years when I made it my custom at the end of every semester to write a thank you note to each professor under whom I had studied. Sometimes a small card could hardly contain the effusive gratitude I wished to extend. Sometimes I struggled to find anything both true and gracious to say in thanks.