I work hard for my money, at least I did until I was laid off, so if you have an event or an occasion or a party or a celebration and I bought you a gift, I’d really appreciate some acknowledgement in writing. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, nor does it need to take a lot of time. What does an envelope, a piece of paper and a stamp cost? Maybe one dollar? How long does it take to write a brief message on a piece of paper and fill out an envelope? Maybe 15 minutes? I’m telling you, it doesn’t take much. If you watch Judge Judy or any other 30 minute television program, you can literally write the message, fill out the envelope, affix the stamp and run the whole kitten caboodle out to the mailbox just during the time the show pauses for commercial breaks. And not to worry, you’re still going to be able to watch all of the courtroom drama and hear Judy’s verdict at the end.
When I was raising my kids, I tried to drill into their brains (sorry, that sounds really violent). I mean, I tried to hammer into their heads (well, that’s certainly not an improvement). Let me start over. When I was raising my kids, as my mother did with me, I tried to teach them how important it was to show gratitude and formally acknowledge when someone had given them a gift. And whether they actually liked what they received, or how big or small it was, or how much it cost, was totally irrelevant. But I feel like somehow that same message got lost in translation, with a few exceptions, in the generations that followed my own because getting a thank you note or card or any acknowledgement at all for your efforts, is about as rare as spotting a Spanish Lynx out in the wild. These animals are on the endangered species list by the way, so I think you understand where I’m coming from. They are RARE.
Thank you cards (or notes) don’t require a great deal of imagination. And they don’t have to take all day to write. They don’t even need to be specific (which can come in handy when you can’t remember if your Aunt Donna gave you the pack of onesies or the giant gift basket with diapers, teething rings, rattles, a hand knitted sweater, a teddy bear, and safety latches for the kitchen cabinets). The message can be as simple and generic as, “Thank you so much for the generous gift. I really appreciate it!” If your Aunt Donna is anything like me, when she gets that acknowledgement, she will smile and she will make a mental note. And you can be sure that when you invite her to little Olivia’s or Oliver’s 1st birthday party next year, she will be knocking on your door on that appointed day, with another generous gift in tow. Don’t send a card? Chances are, she’s definitely not purchasing a gift for little Olivia or Oliver again, and the RSVP response you receive from her as to whether or not she will be attending the party will be a very unmistakable ‘NO’.
Can you tell this is something that really gets stuck in my craw? Yes, it does. I came from a generation that was schooled in how important this practice was. If you give me a gift, I guarantee you will receive a thank you card. And when I give you a gift, I expect the same. And I know it’s probably wrong to expect it, because you shouldn’t have expectations when you give anybody anything. But I do. I was complaining to my husband the other day about how I felt a little burnt after spending $80 on gifts for our neighbor’s baby shower (that was over 5 months ago) and never receiving any acknowledgement whatsoever. There was no card, no call, no text, no nothing. In my mind, that means ‘no gratitude’. And that is really hard for me. I know money doesn’t grow on trees and my husband and I didn’t have much when our kids were young, so anything we got was really appreciated and treasured. What has happened since then? How come it seems like people nowadays just take so much for granted?
And the more I think about it, I honestly don’t remember getting a thank you card or note or gesture for the last several gifts I have given. Hang on. I stand corrected. I actually have received thank you cards for all of the gifts I have given to all of my friends that are in the ’65 and older’ category. And I really appreciate those words of gratitude! It makes me feel like the time I took and the money I spent actually meant something. However, when I think back to the last three baby showers I’ve been invited to, I can tell you honestly that I haven’t been thanked in any way, shape or form for any of the gifts I gave. And I can tell you, I gave a heck of a lot more than a pack of onesies. And it makes me bitter. I wish it didn’t. And as much as I wish I didn’t feel this way, it is unlikely that I’ll go to the trouble again. Whether you make minimum wage or well over six figures a year, and you spend your valuable time and money buying gifts for folks that don’t seem to show any appreciation for your efforts, it just kind of leaves you feeling a bit deflated. At least, that’s how it makes me feel.
Anyway, I have just one last thing that I’d like to mention and then I’ll get off my soapbox. I have one last bit of advice that I’d like to impart upon you and then I promise, I’ll leave you be. If you get a gift, send a card (or even a note). But please don’t send a thank you card for a thank you card. Please, don’t. It could get totally out of control and go on forever. I have had this happen. Someone buys you a gift and then you send them a thank you card and then they thank you for the lovely card and then you thank them for their kindness and oi vey, enough already! One gift, one card, everybody’s happy and life goes on.