The Thank-you Note: A Lost Art

by Karen Kinnaird

I cringed as I overheard the conversation through the receiver of the wall-mounted telephone, the cord tightly stretched to the other side of the kitchen. “Where’s my thank-you note?!” My poor mother had received a call from my grandparents because I had forgotten once again to write a thank-you note to them for the birthday gift they mailed. Not only were they waiting for the note, they were still wondering if I had even received the gift. Oops. 

Over time, my parents’ attempts to teach me proper etiquette finally took hold. But it wasn’t until years later as a young minister’s wife did I fully understand its significance. In seminary, we were actually taught in the classroom how to write a thank-you note!

At the risk of sounding old and outdated, writing a personal, hand-written thank-you note is a valuable practice that is becoming a lost art.

The thank-you note has also been called “hospitality in writing.” Thank-you notes are appropriate to send after someone does anything significant on your behalf: a gift, a kind gesture, a favor or job interview.

Why do it?

  1. t’s always the right thing to do. It’s been said that good manners are teetering on the brink of extinction. Let’s not let that happen.

2. It’s good for the well-being of the recipient as well as the writer. Gratitude improves mental health.

3. It’s a gesture of goodwill, and it sets you apart. Especially in the professional world, it’s a way to distinguish yourself.

4. It’s a personal touch. In the informal, digital world of social media, emails and text messages, a hand-written note is especially meaningful.

5. It can serve as a keepsake. My husband and I have received some notes that have been so meaningful that we have kept them for years and in some cases placed them in family scrapbooks. The note below is from my prayer partner, close friend and confidant, written in the last weeks of her life. What a treasure!

6. It’s Scriptural. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

When?

The sooner the better. If necessary, set a self-imposed deadline. 

How?

Write as if you are speaking to the person in your own unique voice. No pressure! Make it personal, be specific and succinct.

For who?

Consider expressing your gratitude to a family member, connection group or home group leader, a teacher or an old influence in your life. Minister Appreciation Month is coming up in October. Who better to practice “hospitality in writing” than to those who minister to you? 

We don’t have to look far to find “thank-you notes” woven throughout Scripture. In the book of Philippians, Paul writes thanking the Philippians for a gift but takes it even further by expressing his thanks to God for them. He is personal and specific. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3-6)

As we’re kicking off the fall, let’s be intentional by grabbing a pen, some note cards and stamps. Let’s practice cultivating gratitude not only for things received but for those special people in our lives.

Karen Kinnaird serves at the Spiritual Formation Team Coordinator for Council Road. She has been a minister’s wife for nearly 35 years and enjoys supporting and coaching Oklahoma Baptist church planting wives. An award winning blogger, Karen has a passion for encouraging women searching for hope. She and her husband Jimmy have 3 children and 2 grandsons.

Karen Kinnaird