In a recent mentoring session, someone asked me whether it’s still customary to write a thank you note or thank you email after an interview. I cringe at this question. It reminds me of being encouraged as a child to write thank you cards after Christmas. I don’t cringe because thank you cards aren’t appropriate or kind, but if someone has to remind me or tell me to do it, how authentic is that “thank you” in the first place? And if you ask if it’s appropriate what you’re really asking is whether or not it will help or hurt your ability to get something else you want (e.g. the job after the interview or another gift at the next holiday).
Let’s explore the flip side. Does a grateful heart have to outwardly display their gratitude for it to “count”? If I don’t send a card does it mean I am selfish and not thankful? Can I be thankful in my own way at my own time that is authentic and not mere obligation?
I ask because the most memorable thank yous I’ve received were not the ones that came in envelopes I self addressed at a baby/wedding shower (ladies know what I’m talking about). Memorable thank you’s were the “out of nowhere”, never saw it coming, specific authentic outpouring of the heart. Not to get credit, or kudos, or let me know they received my gift successfully in the mail. Nor was it to check the mandatory “someone made me” or culturally expected box.
Kindness and appreciation can come in multiple forms.
We should cultivate hearts that observe, notice, appreciate and then express that gratitude in meaningful personal ways.
How can we encourage others to experience genuine gratitude and appreciation for all they’ve been given?
After giving a presentation recently, I received a very detailed email thanking me not only for my time and my message, but for giving her comfort. Comfort that she was not alone in the ways she sees and wants to help the world. Encouragement hearing that being sensitive and caring is not a weakness. An example you can be a professional and write about your feelings and both are okay. She had to hunt down the people that organized the event to get my contact information to share that with me. And it was not to get anything in return. She was thankful and couldn’t keep it in.
Once I received a picture of a friend’s son, holding a gift I had given, that used to be mine as a child. Not having children of my own, seeing him get joy from something that brought me joy was the most thoughtful thing his mother could have done. A thank you card for the gift wouldn’t have been appropriate. Sharing this moment with me was the most personal expression of gratitude.
Sometimes thankfulness comes in the form of breakfast casseroles, hot dogs, cookies flowers and a verse to encourage you to keep going. Being a leader is not about authority, but the responsibility to care for your team and help them become the best versions of themselves. Some days you are better at this than others. Some days you are worse. Some days you feel like you can’t do anything right, and then one day a well orchestrated morning of thankfulness can remind you that maybe God put you in a space for a reason.
“Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly–not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.”1 Peter 5:2, NLT
Others have been texts, sunshine cartoons, Facebook posts, or private messages sharing a memory or a series of blog posts that inspired them. Maybe they knew, but it was their words of thankfulness that inspired me to write. To come back to writing after hard times. Sometimes thankfulness is the best gift to give a giver. Well placed, it can be the water that fills someone’s nearly empty bucket.
So this is my thank you to my anonymous encourager.
Before writing the funk, I started to be more vocal with the people in my life about my recent struggles. I stopped saying I was okay, when I wasn’t. And then a card showed up in the mail. And then another. And another. And another. And another. No return address. No stamp with the city or post office that had been used (sneaky). No signature. No personal indicators of any kind. They included bible verses in full or in part. They included prayers.
They were ways to encourage my heart.
I have kept every card you sent. I reread them slowly. I look up each bible verse, read the context around it, highlight the parts God needs me to remember and place them in my bible for safe keeping. I try to discern your handwriting and am partially ashamed I can’t figure it out but then I remember with technology, very few of us see each other’s handwriting anymore.
Thank you for gently, persistently and lovingly pushing me toward God again and again. Thank you for listening to me, whenever I told you I was struggling. Thank you for not just hearing me, but for acting on it. You matter. You are making a difference. To me.
And to the rest of us…
I will not tell you that you must write and send a thank you card or thank you email or thank you text. But I will tell you…
So slow down and observe. Find something in a gift, in time spent together, in a person… to honestly appreciate. Then find your words, your method, to share that appreciation in a way that is meaningful and authentic.
If we want to be the change in the world, it starts with the people we encounter. Be thankful for them. And tell them they matter. To you.