Don’t be caught thankless this time of year

Some people wait until the fourth Thursday in November to consider the many things for which they are thankful. I would argue the season of gratitude extends year ‘round and starts now. Expressing gratitude is always in season.

Over the next two weeks, high school graduation ceremonies will be conducted everywhere. Invitations to open houses have already begun filling mailboxes, some sincerely commemorating 13 years of hard work, others using shaved ham, potato salad, and decorated cakes to troll for gifts and money.

Let me appeal here to those making the 2008 graduation cakes. Please spell “congratulations” correctly with the icing. Nothing frosts my English teacher mother’s pumpkin more than to see the “d” from the word “graduate” also show up in “congradulations.” She carries with her a tube of red icing and will not hesitate to make the correction.

No kidding.

Graduates, this is your first lesson as you embark upon the next leg of life: Don’t be ironically ignorant. Proofread your cake and demand revisions if necessary. You have the rest of your life to tolerate mediocrity. Don’t start early.

The discussion of writing brings me to my intended topic of thank-you notes. 

Considering the vast number of papers a student must write in order to receive a high school diploma, it’s amazing that student loses those skills virtually overnight when it’s time to write thank-you notes. The same student who just a week earlier turned in 50 index cards in documentation of a 30-page research paper is suddenly overwhelmed by a 3 X 5-inch piece of stationery.

The tongue that licked 100 open house invitation envelopes is suddenly paralyzed.

One teen told me he couldn’t possibly send out thank-you notes because he had invited everyone he knew to his open house. Here’s a solution: Invite only those people for whom your graduation would be a truly meaningful event. Instant thank-you note trimmer.

It’s a good thing I am not this year’s commencement speaker at Union City High School, as I would give etiquette equal time with platitudes about success. In my mind, the two are intertwined, or at least should be.

When I’ve helped award scholarships at the annual Union City High School Alumni Banquet, I’ve been disheartened by the large number of students who neither show up to receive their scholarship nor send a thank-you note to the person or organization who provided the scholarship. While I realize people are busy, they always seem able to squeeze in time to cash the scholarship check.

If you want to succeed in life, you need to learn how to appropriately express gratitude. To not send thank-you notes for high school graduation gifts or scholarships is to enter adulthood with multiple IOUs.

Bad grad.

If you can’t write a thank-you note because you are genuinely grateful for the gift or money you received, then do it for the coldly calculating reason that not thanking those people might cause them to curb their generosity at future occasions, such as your wedding.

Speaking of weddings, brides and grooms are no better. Beginning their marriages on a foundation of ingratitude, they typically open their gifts either the morning following the wedding or immediately after the honeymoon, but it’s a blue moon before they get around to thanking the gift givers.

When I got married, I did not cash a single check until all the thank-you notes were mailed. And it wasn’t because stamps cost only 15 cents back then. Worst case scenario is when a couple divorces before having thanked anyone for the wedding gifts. Wonder if there’s a connection there.

Many people intimidate themselves with the prospect of sending thank-you notes, but the basic format is pretty simple:

Dear (Whoever), Thank you for coming to my (specify commencement, open house, or wedding). Thank you for the (specify gift or money). I plan to use it to (tell the truth or say something more noble you think they would like to hear). Thank you, again, for thinking of me. It means a lot. Sincerely, (your name).

There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?

Gracias. Merci. Danke. It doesn’t matter how you say it, as long as you say it promptly.


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