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The Art of Gratitude

The glorious season of thankfulness is here!

You’ve probably observed that your social media feed is inundated with touching expressions of thankfulness. Perhaps you’ve even penned a few words of gratitude yourself.

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy. – Jacques Maritain

Unless you live in a remote mountaintop wilderness, you probably don’t have to look terribly hard to find examples of extraordinary kindness around you. In fact, our fine communities practically ooze kindness and generosity! Do you serve as an FRG Leader or a Spouses’ Club chairperson with the responsibility of directing volunteers who give of their precious time to coordinate events, fundraisers and projects? Have you been invited to share a meal in someone’s home for the holidays? Have you been helped or encouraged during a time of need?

How important is it to express gratitude to others?

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward

In an attempt to get a head start on my New Year’s resolutions, I’m putting some thought into how I can better incorporate gratitude into my day-to-day life. How do you express your gratitude of others to others?

Here are some ideas:

1. Written expressions of gratitude

Some may feel that physical personal correspondence, like a thank-you note, is a dead art form. It isn’t. It is the most fundamental of courtesies. How do you know if a personal, handwritten thank-you note is warranted? Kindly consider the following points when deciding if a handwritten note is appropriate:

  • Was the gift or act of kindness welcomed and appreciated? Did the gesture of kindness make you smile and/or help you in some way?
  • Did the gift or act of kindness require the giver to spend more than five minutes to procure/coordinate?
  • Was the gift or act of kindness valued at more than 47 cents (or whatever the current rate of postage happens to be)?

You may be thinking, “Wow, those criteria apply to about 90% of the acts of kindness I receive or experience! Are notes really necessary for all those instances?” When it doubt, send the note.

Can thank-you notes be a bit awkward and cumbersome to write? You bet! But, it is a skill, and as with any skill, it can be learned, honed, and mastered. If you’re having trouble getting started, just Google “How to write a thank-you note,” and you’ll receive thousands of tips and suggestions to help you get unstuck. And another thought about handwritten notes: no one will judge your words or grammar, only your intentions will be remembered.

Don’t believe me?

People will forget what you said; but will remember how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

2. Tangible expressions of gratitude

If handwritten thank-you notes are your basic nude pumps, think of tangible expressions of gratitude as a little black dress—your standard go-to when you need to make a statement. Here are some additional points of consideration when evaluating whether a tangible gift is appropriate:

  • Was the act of kindness grand or extraordinary or otherwise represent a significant expenditure financially or effort-wise?
  • Was the gift or act of kindness prolonged/sustained over a period of time? For example, did your neighbor make meals while your entire household was sick for a week? Did a friend watch your kids frequently when urgent errands beckoned during a deployment?

Some suggestions on how to get started with tangible gifts: you can shop online or locally for thoughtful gifts to purchase or you can turn to Pinterest for inspiration on handmade gifts. And, as with the handwritten note, you won’t be graded on creativity or expense—focus on finding (or making) something meaningful and appropriate, and you’ll be fine!


Bottom line: Saying thank you is a courtesy and, basic though it may be, is not optional. You simply cannot afford to ignore it, because when you fail to recognize the kindness and contributions of others, you minimize or diminish their time and effort. Failing to recognize the effort of others communicates that the gift or action wasn’t appreciated, or worse, could communicate that the gift or the action was expected, a message you probably don’t want to communicate to anyone who has shown you considerable kindness.

Stay kind, my friends!

Gratitude is always en vogue; it never goes out of style.


1 Comment

  1. Starlett Henderson

    Thank you April! When I was in HS, my father bought me a Peggy Post book on manners. We were always required to write Thank-Yous when warranted. In some cases, it is what people remember about me (that lovely thank-you note, timely and warm). I taught my children the same. They’ll thank me for it. I hope.

    I love this blog by Peter Bregman when he brings things one step further by proposing thank-yous for times when you wouldn’t have thought them necessary, like in business and the briefest of encounters. I hope you like it. I


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