It’s not my mother’s fault, but I don’t write thank you notes. Not really – not good ones.
She did her best. I’m sure there were explanations along the lines of this person sacrificed money and time for you – and decent human beings write thank you notes – but the motivational speech I best remember is what if they stop buying you stuff? Well, anything to keep the stuff coming.
I am, by nature and by practice, procrastinator extraordinaire. I hear that acknowledging your problem in the first place is the first step to recovery, but I’ve never stuck to the program long enough to reach the second.
Example: The Christmas cards I wrote fastidiously in September are still on my dresser, sans stamps, sans addresses, sans credit for thinking of my friends at Christmastime.
no follow-through = no credit for the idea in the first place = no real contribution to humankind
This issue of expressing thanks, for me, is about a lot more than not being Emily Post.
It is hard for me to bear being helped, especially (as all help is) at someone else’s cost. When I receive a gift, I scramble to repay. Maybe I’ll buy them a gift for no reason, except that it’s no longer for no reason. Maybe I’ll tithe it back to them (Maybe that’s not OK. Maybe I should do a Bible study on that first.). Maybe after I pay my bills with it I’ll use the remaining balance to buy them a stick of butter.
I hardly do these things – half because I’m selfish, needy, and chicken, half because it would besmirch the idea of the gift. If it can be earned, it no longer qualifies as a gift [See salvation for further details.].
But the least I could do is properly say thanks (Ms. Post nods violently). I bought cards especially for this project – ones that read merci with little flowers – but these (1) are oddly shaped and cost extra to ship and (2) seem an inappropriate place to write,
“I had an insurmountable need and you bailed me out even though I’m a crummy friend . . .” And then what? “xoxo. love paying bills! you’re totally cool. take it easy.”
It’s humbling and confusing to me when etiquette collides with real need. What do you say to someone who sacrifices sleep and study time to ease you through your disasters, hunts you down when you try to hide in your time of need, and helps you pay your bills? There should be special words for these people. We say “thanks” when people say “have a nice day.” This is a different kind of thanks.
And I think people recognize this. When I do express thanks for an unspeakable gift, no one says, “It’s nothing,” like they just donated a kidney and said, “More where that came from!”
Usually we hear, “We love you,” “We wanted to do this,” “We knew you needed help,” or – new favorite – “a gift from the church, of which I am a part.” All contain some element of “It may have hurt, but I wanted to do it for you, and I’m glad I did – and no, you cannot say no.”
I would like to be like this. I feel a real and appropriate guilt toward not being like this. This may be hard to believe, given my track record and the murmurings of a billion people pledging to resolve to promise to do better stuff this year.
Today I decided on a first victim for my newfound and more expressive thankfulness: two – three – almost total strangers, and their dogs.
Almost a year ago I was in my first and only car accident. Putzing along on my way to work, I hit ice, lost control of the car, hit a snow drift, and was blinded. Braced for a ten foot sidelong plunge into a creek, I was pretty thrilled about that guard rail.
Through their kitchen window, a young couple (and their five dogs) had watched me fly sideways and slam to a stop halfway in their front yard. They brought me inside, made sure I hadn’t broken my head, and told me that they had been meaning to replace those driveway posts (at your service – yes, I sensed that – that’s why I crushed them into little pieces).
Yesterday I saw an It’s a Boy! balloon bouncing from the mailbox I almost smashed. They’ve become parents. And I probably owe them a Lowe’s gift card for taking out their driveway posts.