Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Saying thank you

image from thank-you-site.com
How and when do you express appreciation? In an age of electronic and digital communication (are these the same??) are you inclined to say thank you with a phone call or perhaps an email or text? Does a simple and sincere face-to-face "thanks" suffice?

I recently read something about this book and it got me thinking about how meaningful an unexpected written thank you note can be to a person. And I believe that unexpected is the key word in that sentence. We're not talking here about the forced thank you notes children must write prior to being allowed to enjoy a present, or that obligatory wedding or shower gift acknowledgment. What I'm referring to is inherently more meaningful - a thoughtfully written note which communicates appreciation for an act of kindness, a generosity or a professional service. You want examples? How about three...

In the fall of 2010 I had corrective surgery on my separated shoulder. This cycling injury had become progressively more uncomfortable and I had arrived at the last resort - surgery. My doctor, Max Alley, did a fantastic job with the procedure. From his willingness to operate with a local anesthesia to the ultimate positive outcome, the surgery was an absolute success and I regained my ability to enjoy physical activities, most especially cross-country skiing. So I sent him a little note of appreciation. And - guess what happened? He responded in kind sending me a thank you note for my note!  As I said to him in my note, I hope to never see him again, but if I do our connection will be more personal, which I think, is pretty cool.

A few weeks ago I had an errand at the newly renovated Albany County Courthouse.  I was cutting it close on time and became extremely frustrated due to the locked doors at the main entrance on Eagle Street coupled with the complete lack of signage indicating how to get the heck in the building.  I literally had to go to another building and inquire where the entrance was (on the east side of the courthouse.  You're welcome.)  and, when I finally made my way to the office I needed, I was told that I was too late in the afternoon (Friday, naturally) to get done what I had practically maimed myself (extreme exaggeration) to accomplish.  I was not pleasant to the woman at the desk and I think know I spoke to her in an unnecessarily brusque fashion.  She very calmly and competently defused me with her tone of voice and reasonable demeanor.  I ultimately left my documents with her because she offered to keep them on her desk and attend to my matter first thing Monday morning.  After I left, I felt awful about the manner in which I had behaved, so I wrote a letter to her boss, Albany County clerk, Thomas Clingan to commend her for her professionalism.  I was most pleasantly surprised to receive a response directly from him thanking me for my note and expressing the appreciation of his staff for my notice of their hard work.  Nice, right?

And my third example?  Let's just say it involved a winning 50/50 raffle ticket with a substantial prize - maybe $2000+.  And maybe the winner of that prize independently elected to donate $1000 of that prize to the family who the lottery originally benefited, while keeping $1000 as a contribution to a fund for a special upcoming family event and making three smaller donations to other worthwhile charities.  And, perhaps, the donor never received the slightest acknowledgment of her generosity.  (At least not from the largest beneficiary - the other 3 donations were accepted with appreciation.)  Nope - not a phone call nor a note were ever received.  Granted, one shouldn't be motivated to give by the expectation of appreciation, but I honestly can't imagine ever cashing that check before expressing my gratitude.  Can you?

Maybe I should send them one more gift?  Perhaps a copy of this post would be appropriate? Nah, I'll just continue on my own path of appreciation because what you put out there does eventually come back.  Thankfully.


  1. I discovered the power of a thank-you note in college. I spent Easter weekend in the dorm. My roommate's mother made me a big plate of really good ham sandwiches that he delivered Sunday evening. I sent a thank you note.

    The following 3 Easter Sundays, I got a call from my friend to stop by and pick up my plate of sandwiches.

  2. Jon - Your experience, along with the way you relayed it, cracked me up! Lesson learned, huh? Thanks for commenting and Happy New Year!

  3. It is interesting (and certainly unfortunate) that the person you describe expected a thank- you. The gift of donation should be just that. A gift. That means to expect nothing in return, including any expressed gratitude. To expect a thank you, in my opinion, means it would not only fall on deaf ears but also that any appreciation would only inflate an already overly-large ego. It's truly a disappointment that there are those who think they deserve recognition for something that is supposed to be selfless, and that they go so far as to demand attention from all those in the area in a not-so-subtle online post. Talk about passive-aggressive.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Anonymous. It seems that you and the raffle winner have different sensibilities when it comes to acknowledging an act of kindness. No worries, Anonymous, you seem quite simpatico when passive-aggression is the theme! Happy New Year.