Thank You Letters: Strike the Right Note

Girl Journaling

 “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.

Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

– Albert Schweitzer

When a 46-year-old man was stricken with metastasized melanoma and given just a few months to live, his many friends gave him a precious gift. Each of them wrote a short, sincere thank-you note on a postcard, thanking him for something specific he had done for them through the years.

“I’ll never forget the week you drove me to work when my car was in the shop,” said one.  “You were so supportive during my divorce,” said another.  Hour after hour, the ailing man read and re-read each card, wiping away the occasional tear, and feeling such a sense of peace in his final days. The outpouring of gratitude affirmed that his life had had purpose, and he gently exited it with grace and dignity.

While writing those notes made such a difference for the dying man, each of the letter writers also benefitted. In his book, Spontaneous Happiness, Andrew Weil, MD, founder, professor, and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, cites research proving the simple act of expressing gratitude promotes a feeling of optimism.  Optimism and other positive emotions, he says, boost the immune system, and are linked with lower production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and lowered risk of chronic disease.

Besides making you feel good, writing a quick thank-you to someone will probably make more of a positive difference than you could imagine.  A retired teacher who logged decades of service in the classroom remembers how touched she was to receive a note from a college student she taught in 8th grade.

“He said he was the only one in his freshman English class who knew what a preposition was because I made them memorize them all,” she said.  “A small thing, but I couldn’t believe he took the time to let me know after so long!”

She particularly appreciated the note, she said, because teachers get so few of them. The letters they do receive energize teachers and encourage them to keep giving their students 1,000%.

Why not take a moment to dash off an expression of gratitude to a teacher, coach, boss or other person in your past who was there for you when you needed it most?  Both of you will benefit!

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