Was Connie Leas, the author of The Art of Thank You: Crafting Notes of Gratitude (Beyond Words Publishing, 2002) engaged in a thankless task? For the most part, probably. For conveying “thank yous” these days seems to be a vanishing art.
This impression is nourished with everyday experience by just about everybody who says they are overloaded, don’t have time, and spend too much time on their “in” box. I’m not referring to an occasional oversight, missing sending a thank you by a card, an email or, maybe an entire letter. No, not giving a thank you a second thought has become a chronic cultural abandonment—no matter some touching exceptions to the contrary.
Here are some examples from my experience:
1. My associate sent via Rep. Chris Shays Elliot Richardson’s book Reflections of a Radical Moderate to over thirty-five liberal Republicans in the Congress. Not one note of thanks came back.
2. Two hardback books—one on hunger in America and the other on the wealthy were sent to about thirty salespersons and staff of a friendly lecture bureau. Not one note of thanks. We wondered whether they were delivered. A telephone call confirmed that they did arrive.
3. A book pertinent to civil justice victories was sent to about 70 attorneys for whom the subject was of special interest. Only three of them sent a thank you letter.
4. Two book gifts were sent to twenty outstanding teachers in the Washington, D.C. area, in recognition of their excellence. We received four nice thank you letters.
5. More recently, like others known to the world of Boy Scouts, I receive regular requests from them, their parents or Scoutmasters to send the boys a letter of commendation on their attainment of Eagle Scout status. These letters are then read or noted at the Eagle Scout award ceremony. Having attended some of them, I am amused to note how blasé were the scouts as they took the news. They knew these were essentially form letters from notables—canned and bland.
So one day we decided to send a handsome facsimile (1 ½ ft. by 2 ft.) of the Declaration of Independence, in a sturdy tube, to twenty five of the requestors whose solicitation letters had just arrived.
We told them they could keep this gift for free if they wished and hoped that the Scouts would put them on their bedroom walls, along with other more contemporary posters. The Declaration of Independence (1776) after all is the fundamental juridical pre-constitution document of our country.
It’s been over eight weeks and still not a word of thanks from any of the Eagle Scouts or their entourage. Presumably the Declarations of Independence will retain their viability with or without the expected courtesies.
To some degree or another most people, including me, miss a thank you here and there. But these gifts were selected to be appropriate to their receivers in one manner or another.
My co-author, Wesley J. Smith, told me that when he was a child his grandparents and parents would say to him, “Now Wesley James, sit you down and write that thank you note.” He observes that such civilities do not seem to be required from the young as much anymore.
By the way, thank you for reading this lamentation.