E-mails, texts, Twitter, Facebook posts, and a multitude of other social media options have all but eliminated an honorable, old-fashioned form of writing: the handwritten thank you note. Or maybe we have just become a nation of ungrateful, lazy people. There is something so satisfying about writing a thank you note—rehearsing the things (whether items or character qualities) for which one is thankful, thinking through the best way to express one’s gratitude, and then hearing the scratch of the pen on the card-stock as those thoughts pour forth. Yet, how easy it is to get distracted by other duties, find other activities to occupy us, and simply neglect this method of giving thanks. Shame on us!
I was shocked to read Paul’s description of ungodly and unrighteous men in the first chapter of Romans, and this phrase came to the forefront: “…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (emphasis added, Rom. 1:21). The Greek word for “thankful” in this verse (eucharisteo) means, “to be grateful, feel thankful, give thanks.” So, by allowing my children to avoid writing thank you notes for birthday gifts, by “forgetting” to send thank you cards to families who have invited us over for a meal, or by neglecting to send a note to someone for whom I am grateful for their impact in my life, I am acting in an ungodly and unrighteous manner. I am no different than an unregenerate who is foolish, an idol worshipers, lustful, wicked, covetous, angry, envious, evil-minded, and unforgiving…among other things (Rom. 1:23-32). Ouch!
So how can we encourage gratitude in our children? Well, here are a few ideas we have tried to use consistently with our brood….
- Say “thank you” to the hostess/host for the food and ask to be excused from the table when a meal is finished (even if the hostess/host is mom or dad).
- Write thank you notes to every person who gave you a gift at birthdays, graduation, Christmas, etc.
- Send out letters of thanks after missions trips in which you have asked individuals to pray for you or financially support you.
- Send an occasional card of thanks to an individual who has been a blessing to you (a piano teacher, Sunday School teacher, AWANA leader, pastor, adopted “grandparent,” and so on).
- Use holidays like Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to send notes of encouragement and thanks to individuals who may not often get mail.
- Even just having children sign their names to cards of thanks that we as adults have written to others for some act of kindness or uplifting character quality lets our children see how to write a thank you note.
This Thanksgiving, how about proving we are a people of thankfulness by sending out at least one handwritten thank you note from each member of your family to someone you know who should be appreciated or thanked? Paul tells us in Colossians 3:15 to “be thankful.” The adjective eucharistos in this verse conveys the idea of being mindful of favors, pleasing, agreeable, acceptable to others, winning, and beneficent. Thankful hearts imply contentment with what we have, humility in acknowledging the sacrifices others have made for us, and love for the giver of the gift or character quality being recognized. And as the writer of the note, you’ll receive a peace and pleasure in knowing you’ve done something God commands that brings joy to others. Thank you notes are win-win-win opportunities all the way around. So take the third of an hour it will require of you to write a thank you note this Thanksgiving. You’ll be grateful you did.