Gary’s February Gems – The Lost Art of Saying Thank You Issue
We take “thank you’s” seriously here in the great white north. Along with “sorry”, it’s used at every conceivable opportunity. It’s a Canadian stereotype. Someone opens a door for us? “Thank you”. Someone bumps into us. “Sorry”. Whether deserved or not, we spray “sorries” all over the place like a fire hose in the event we may have missed a legit reason to apologize.
But apologies and gratitude cut both ways. Want to tick me off? Neglect to say thank you if I opened a door for you. Even if your mouth is full and you can’t speak, a nod or eye contact will do. And if you don’t give me a “thank you”, expect a loud “you’re welcome” back. I’m not above passive-aggressiveness.
We’re brought up to do nice things without expecting anything in return. We’re not “tit for tat” kind of people. I’m not someone who goes about doing favours for others expecting something in return. In fact, I send out my Christmas cards late on purpose so that people who don’t them don’t feel obligated to reciprocate.
When I was much younger, I swore that I would never sound like an old curmudgeon, but really, those kids, nowadays! Whatever happened to manners? Whatever happened to “please” and “thank you”? Okay, maybe a little curmudgeonly.
I don’t believe that manners should change with fashion – politeness isn’t a trend, it’s a civil code that allows us to live in relative peace with each other. It’s the lubricant we apply to the occasional friction that arises from our daily interaction. It’s the wine at a family dinner.
Parents are expected to hand down to their children the rules of social etiquette. “Don’t put your elbows on the table!”, “Don’t talk with your mouth full!”
“Gary, we know that wasn’t the dog. Excuse yourself.”
As tough as she was with table manners, my mom was even more strict when it came to be making sure we wrote out thank you cards whenever we received a gift, no exceptions. We loved getting gifts, we didn’t love sitting at the kitchen table writing out thank you cards in longhand. Mom would check for grammar and spelling mistakes and our style had better be up to Ann Landers standards.
But the discipline worked. Handwriting thank you notes became a habit that I carried into adulthood. An experience I had almost nineteen years ago demonstrated the power of a well thought out thank you note.
My husband Earl and I had just launched our foundation, Art For Healing and had been working at night to install the art at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. We worked at night and weekends at that time since both of us had day jobs.
Working off-hours meant we rarely saw anyone who worked there.
The day after completing our installation we heard from a doctor who, when arriving for his shift the next day, was so blown away by the metamorphosis of the space that he had his secretary type up a wonderful thank you letter. He commended us on our mission, and how much the installation made the space inviting, positive and hopeful.
He addressed the letter, “Dear Art Doctors” and the tag stuck with us ever since. We were flattered and surprised he referred to us as doctors. His salutation demonstrated how much thought he gave to what we do and came to the conclusion that based on how he felt walking into the newly designed space, that art, like doctors, heal. Even as it is evident that these “art doctors” wouldn’t be joining him and exalted peers on Mount Olympus, being recognized for what we had set out to do when we conceived “Art for Healing” made us feel appreciated. And that, my friends, is the power and the art of “thank you”.
While every thank you counts, handwritten ones as opposed to emails or texts, are special. A handwritten note is real. You can touch it. It’s not a series of bits and bytes that ends up lost in the bottomless pit of my email folder.
Opening a card is like opening a very small book that asks you to judge it by its cover. What’s written inside is the prize and who doesn’t like receiving a prize? I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that I save many of the cards I receive. What, you don’t? 🙂
It’s important to thank someone promptly if you’re going to thank them at all. The amount of time that has passed shouldn’t be so long that whoever is getting thanked can’t remember what they did to deserve such gratitude. Princess Diana used to write her dinner party thank-you’s that same night before going to bed. Be like Diana.
As a co-founder of the Art for Healing Foundation, my life is surrounded by art. I have seen first hand how art can raise someone out of the “blues”. Receiving a thoughtful thank you note can have the same power. Seth Godin has a definition of art that I relate to very much.
“Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.”
Thank you for reading this.
Here are you February Gems.
You’re most welcome Alan – hope you and your family are all otherwise well and safe! 🙂