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Minnesota Prairie Roots: Carrying the guilt of not sending hand-written thank you cards

Has our society forgetten the value of a hand-written thank you card?

Have thank you notes notes, like handwritten letters, become an outdated form of expressing gratitude?

Unfortunately, I think so.

Weeks have passed since I attended several high school graduation receptions, where I left cards and money for the graduates. I have yet to receive a single handwritten thank you, although all verbally thanked me for coming to their parties.

Eventually I expect these notes may arrive in my mail, make that snail mail. Yet I’m not holding my breath. Generally speaking, and I’m not pointing my finger at youth (we’re all guilty), we have become a society lax, or even forgetful, about writing personal thank you notes.

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Maybe I’m old school, but prompt, from-the-heart gratitude penned on paper shows me that the recipient of my gift truly values my gift. It’s that simple. The words are right there, on paper, to read and reread, to appreciate again and again.

Recently, I struck up a conversation with a dad shopping for packaged thank you notes. Typically I don’t see men perusing these cards, which is exactly why I initiated a conversation.

He was buying note cards for his son, a recent high school graduate. The new graduate’s mother was insisting her son write thank yous—especially to the two aunts who had just signed a check paying for his first year of college.

Ya, think?

As the mother of two daughters and one son, I know, though, that boys sometimes need a little extra prodding to write anything. (Sorry, guys, but it’s true.) My now 16-year-old whines and complains, moans and groans, pouts and dawdles every year about writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts.

But I persist, insist and, yes, even demand he write these. Some day he may actually “get it,” that people appreciate the time and effort he’s taken to write personal thanks.

Now I have a confession to make.

I failed to write thank you notes for the wedding gifts my husband and I received in 1982. At the time, a trend of mass-printing thank yous had just begun. Unfortunately I followed that fad. To this day, I regret rolling up those impersonal thank you slips, securing them with a pretty little ribbon and placing them in a basket on the table next to the guestbook.

For nearly 30 years I’ve carried the guilt of these unwritten thank you cards. So, to my wedding guests, accept this sincere apology for never properly acknowledging your gifts. But please, please, don’t tell my teenage son about my etiquette error.

This post was written by Audrey Kletscher Helbling and originally published on Minnesota Prairie Roots.