The other day while browsing through a gift and stationery store, I noticed a sale on discontinued thank-you cards. I viewed this as a sad consequence of our email- and text message-addicted society, and as someone who appreciates the value of handwritten communication, I stared at the boxes of half-priced cards like Iron Eyes Cody surveying a landfill. After “I love you,” “thank you” is one of the most beautiful phrases you can say to someone. And just like a love note, when you take the time to handwrite a thank-you, the sentiment takes on an elegant yet humbling sincerity. It becomes a gift, something we can touch and hold, display on the mantel or stick on the fridge. A memento we can use to remind ourselves of how nice we are.
Last year, despite hosting several cocktail and dinner parties, giving numerous wedding and engagement gifts, and connecting multiple acquaintances both socially and professionally, I can count the number of thank-you cards I received on one hand. Of course, I was told “thank you” by everyone involved—my hand was shook, my back was patted, I was given bottles of wine, and subjected to countless man-hugs, which in my opinion are as clumsy and uncomfortable as the way dogs say hello. I received thank-you texts, thank-you emails, thank-you tweets, and several people even took the time to call. But only a select few sent a handwritten note—and I still have them all.
So, what has happened to the thank-you card, and why is it important to save it from extinction? Ultimately, it comes down to gratitude. Scientists have recently discovered a link between feeling grateful and a number of health benefits including reduced stress, better sleep, and a more optimistic attitude. When we take the time to handwrite a thank-you note, we immerse ourselves in gratitude. It’s meditative and somehow therapeutic. And it strengthens the bonds of our relationships in a way no text, tweet, email, or a quickly muttered “thanks” ever can.
But, I too am guilty of not always taking the time to send a handwritten note when I’m grateful to someone. So, I picked up three boxes of thank-you cards at the stationery store, thirty in all. My goal is to send one a day, every day this month. I’m going to thank friends for their friendship, colleagues for their good work, and family members for their love, support, and for posting bail that one time. In fact, once I put my mind to it, I can think of dozens of people to thank for just as many reasons. I’m going to thank my tailor and my barber for doing the best with what they have to work with. And my neighbor, who, knowing my sleep habits, waits until at least noon before cranking up his leaf blower. And next month I’ll do the same thing, and again the month after that. I’ll bask in my gratitude and reap the benefits, both physically and emotionally. And by the end of the year, I hope to have sent more than 300 thoughtful and sincere notes of thanks. I guess it’s a good thing they’re on sale.