A recent encounter with grief, and the subsequent outpouring of love from friends necessitated a personal resurgence of the once dreaded task of writing thank you notes. There are some who are great at this, taking the time to thank loved ones and strangers for their kindness, but I have never been one of their number. And even when I have gotten past myself and actually written my thanks and mailed it, I’m sure many have contained somewhat trite and meaningless scribbles of gratitude.
I think many would maintain that an essential element to writing a sincere note is true gratitude. Maybe this is an obvious point, but bear with me. In a world where gift registries are expected, it’s easy to look past the generosity of the giver and see a gift as a mere fulfilling of an obligation by someone else to you, and therefore nothing over which to write a thank you note. Being the recipient of free-flowing, unexpected gifts, food, flowers, texts and notes of deep love when not a single soul was obligated to even bat an eye was something that shook me ever so slightly and awakened my soul to gratitude. Suddenly those dreaded thank you notes had been stripped of their awkwardness and feigned gratitude and been given a richness of meaning and opportunity that I had overlooked. People noticed me, us, in our grief, and chose to put their love to action. In writing a note, I was attempting to complete the connection that had been made with a friend. Until I acknowledged what someone had done for me, it was a one-sided conversation, and to me, in this moment, a missed opportunity.
There will always be times when a thank you note goes unwritten. There are times when we just forget, or feel too empty to sit down and write. There are times when grief is so deep that we can only open our hands and recieve, and there is so much beauty in that. And in these times, I’m not so sure that the connection was missed, it was just different. The words I’m writing here are not to make anyone feel guilty if they don’t write thank you notes, but they’re here to encourage those of you who, like me, want to write notes but often feel run-down by the shere feeling of obligation.
I think that what I want to say here is that writing a thank you note is so much more than convention.
It’s a small pathway to deeper friendships through vulnerability, the willingness to share, and gratitude—essential elements of a thriving community. We can chant gratitude mantras to ourselves until we look positively constipated with happiness, but who will ever know about it? With whom will we share our gratitude? There are small pathways to deeper community all around us if we pause to notice them. What are some that you think are important or overlooked? I am just beginning to open my eyes to these little opportunities and the profound gift that they are and would love to learn how you build and maintain gratitude and connection with your community.