During the homily on The Feast of the Epiphany, Father reminded us that there is a special gift that only you can give, and that is the gift of common courtesy–to say Thank You.
I was writing my thank-you cards today and thought about the year gone by. Of course, I do know that when I give a gift to someone I shouldn’t expect anything in return. All adults know this. But I humbly suggest that we have gone too far with this as a society, and we forget when we receive.
I heard somewhere that it is blessed to give without remembering and to receive without forgetting. So I’d like to offer this column today in this light of “receiving without forgetting.” Just how many thank-you cards did we send out this Christmas season?
It’s so easy to think that a quick verbal “thanks” and a hug–is enough. Or to pretend that an email is good enough and complete. Truly, they are not enough.
I’ve fallen into that trap as well. Just one of my many examples: Years ago, my husband, children, and I moved into a little Victorian in an historic neighborhood. Our new neighbor surprised us by leaving an ice bucket filled with wine and goodies on our kitchen counter, and her husband offered us their lawnmower which he stopped using upon hiring a mowing service. They were very generous, and my husband and I both thanked them in person: I did so twice and Roger twice. But somehow our gratitude wasn’t at all absorbed, and our new neighbors called another to complain about our ingratitude. It got back to me very, very quickly.
There is one fact I cannot deny: That is, had I written a quick thank-you note all the hard feelings would have been avoided. People do need that little extra measure of the thank-you card. It makes a difference.
Dear Reader, of all the gifts you have given out this year, how many thank-you cards have you received? Of all the gifts you have received, how many cards have you sent out? When I was in my late twenties and still single, my grandmother surprised me one day. She went to her desk and pulled out a little pile of cards wrapped in a ribbon. “Kathleen, these are all the thank-you cards you sent me over the years. You know, each year we give our grandchildren Christmas money, and you are the only one to write to us to say thank you.” I was touched by how much the small gesture meant to her. I didn’t think much of writing those little cards, but my grandmother thought the world of receiving them.
I do remember, too, that when my mother received a thank-you card, she displayed it on the side board in the dining room for all to see. It was not unnoticed. Today, I do the same in my home, and I’m sure you do, too.
Of all the gifts my husband and I have considered, bought, and given with love, there are only two people from whom we can count on receiving cards after Christmas–my mother and our mail lady, both thank me verbally and in their own handwriting. They are so consistent, I would be more than willing to bet our very last dollar on receiving their cards in a timely fashion. There just might be a shift in my paradigm if I don’t receive those cards each year!
Sadly, some recipients don’t even acknowledge receiving gifts, not even by saying a quick “thank you.” At birthday parties, it’s not uncommon for a gift to be put on a table, piled with others, then opened only after the festivities. No thank-yous are given in any manner. (Mothers, where are you?) Very sad, indeed. At one party, I asked the mom if her son would be opening gifts. She told me that he was embarrassed by the attention, so he didn’t want to. I looked at the huge pile and said, “Wow, you’re gonna have a lot of thank-you cards to write.” She responded with a frown, “Hey I don’t have time for that!” Not one thank-you was doled out.
It is blessed to give without remembering and to receive without forgetting. Let’s not forget when we receive. Send out your cards. It’s old fashioned. It’s loving. It’s Catholic. It’s common courtesy. It’s a little gift that can come only from you. And it’s remembered. I never expected my grandmother to remember, but she surely did and wrapped the cards in a ribbon.
I suspect, too, that the act of writing a thank-you card might very well be contagious. So…my New Year’s resolution is to do a better job of getting out those thank-you cards on time…to buy a stock of them on a regular basis. Michaels is now selling 8-card packs for less than a dollar. We can afford that, right? I just bought three packs for $1.75. Got Thank-You Cards?
Copyright 2011 Kathleen Blease