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The Extra Thank You Touch (It’s “The Unexpected Thank You” Month at Ehell!)

Your story the other day from the woman who thought the verbal thanks should take the place of the written thank you card brought up a memory for me.My sweet grandma had a LOT of grandkids. A LOT. Like 20. And the number kept growing as we got older and got married and had kids of our own. Though she never had a lot of money, she was always very generous and remembered all of us on our special holidays- birthdays, graduations, Christmases- sometimes with a gift card, or if she was able, a gift that she had picked out or sometimes a handmade craft. My family is one of those “we don’t need to be formal and send a card, just say thanks next time you see them.” But I love stationery, and as a kid I loved getting mail, and I always thought it must be nice for others to get mail, too, so I sent my little grandma thank you cards. One year, when I was about 12, she sent me a thank you card back- saying “Thank you for the thank you” and told me that I was the ONLY one of her grandkids who sent her thank you cards.A few years ago she passed away, and while all of the relatives were out at her house going through her things, someone found a huge, rubber-banded stack of cards in her closet. They were all from me. What a wonderful surprise it was to find that she had kept all of them; to watch my handwriting change, to watch my vocabulary change, my choice of stationery. To remember all the things she had given me, all those memories that were stuck inside those cards. I still have that stack of cards in a box in my closet. They are almost like a diary. It means so much to me that she saved all those cards, and it makes me smile just to see them in their box in my house.Though it might seem like a pain in the hand to write a little thank you card, at the end of the day, it’s worth the five minutes.  0522-12

November is “The Unexpected Thank You” Month on Etiquette Hell!  Think of someone who has blessed you with some unexpected treat or help, or who inspired you years ago and send them a thank you note.   About ten years after graduating from college, on some whim I had, I sent a college professor a thank you note telling him how much his Introduction to Music 101 class had changed my life by introducing me to styles of music I had never been exposed to before and how what I had learned had forever changed me.   He responded quickly telling me how that small note had brought tears to his eyes. He was thrilled to have had a student tell him that his teaching job had value.   I got the impression I may have been the only non-music major student of his to ever thank him for the lessons learned that would enrich my life for decades.  Thank you, Dr. Scimonelli!  Vivaldi rocks!

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • sv November 5, 2012, 5:44 am

    This brought tears to my eyes! What a wonderful memory and what a beautiful surprise to find.

  • Bint November 5, 2012, 7:10 am

    I did this last year after medical problems. Having been passed around from pillar to post, dismissed, having my time wasted, spoken to like a moron despite asking the doctor not to talk to me like that, being told they couldn’t help me, being sent to places to be told, “I don’t know why they sent you here” and everything else, I finally went to an independent day clinic. A wonderful doctor dealt with the whole mess in 5 minutes but better yet, she actually listened. Her attitude almost meant more to me than her help. I wrote her a thank-you note when I got home so she knew just how much it meant to me. I also hugged her when I left, haha!

  • abf November 5, 2012, 8:36 am

    What a great way to start the day on a Monday! Love it! Thanks for posting!

  • Rae November 5, 2012, 9:19 am

    What a wonderful story!

  • just4kicks November 5, 2012, 9:58 am

    @Bint: I, too have been there. I overheard my (female!) Obg/yn saying to someone “She had a hysterecomy!! There is nothing for her to be in pain about!!” Through many months and many doctors, I finally found a wonderful doctor who I still see today. My very first appointment, the doctor talked to me for three hours, told me he believed me and said he would help me. I promptly burst into tears and sobbed. Whenever I have a few extra dollars, I bring donuts or treats with me. They are angels and have made a huge difference in my quality of life. I could never thank them enough!!!

  • just4kicks November 5, 2012, 10:00 am

    ***OB/GYN….OOPS. Sorry.

  • BH November 5, 2012, 10:26 am

    Two years ago I looked up an old teacher and sent her a letter in the mail (typed because my handwriting is horrible) I apologized if it wasn’t the right person, but went on in the letter to tell her what a special person she was in my life. I gave her my email address, and she wrote me an email a few days after I sent the letter telling me how grateful she was. She even signed up for facebook for a while, and everyone let her know how she was one of their favorite teachers.
    She took a pencil box with a mirror inside, and had us all line up facing her, she said, inside the box was the most important special person in the entire world. As we all took our turn to see who was inside the box, we had to go to the other side of the room and not let the other children who haven’t seen the box yet know what was inside. That was just ONE of the many things she did to make us all aware of how special each and every one of us was. She was my first and third grade teacher.
    I lost touch last year with her, she deleted her page, but this story just reminded me of how sweet people can be and just a few words can make a difference in one’s life. I have to dig up her email address now and at least say hi!

  • Enna November 5, 2012, 11:41 am

    This is a nice story.

  • INeedANap November 5, 2012, 12:19 pm

    I was at a fraternity party in college when one of my friends suddenly had a severe asthma attack. One of the fraternity’s brothers called 911 and some of the school’s EMTs arrived within minutes. They quickly took care of her and treated the attack. One of the EMTs was a friend of mine, and I sent him a note later thanking him and his colleagues for helping my friend so quickly and efficiently. He wrote me back saying that in his four years as a school EMT, I was the only one who had ever thanked him.

    It astounds me how, when someone spends so much time to help or gift us, we rarely spare a few minutes to let them know how much their gesture was appreciated. I know it is not popular here, but I am a big fan of sending and receiving lovely e-cards. Many of my friends are young and in impermanent living situations, so even getting an e-card is a great way to let someone know your time was appreciated.

  • Angel November 5, 2012, 12:38 pm

    It is stories like this that renew my faith in humanity. Thanks for brightening up my morning!

  • DGS November 5, 2012, 1:38 pm

    What a terrific story…I had done that with a college professor for my Psy101 class who had inspired me to change my major. I had gone on to get a PhD and become a psychologist, and I sent him a letter thanking him for inspiring me with his teaching style and telling him how I frequently think of him when I lecture my own students. I started the letter with “You probably do not remember me from hundreds of students, but I wanted to thank you…” I got back a letter that said, “I remember you exactly” and describing perfectly the haircut (unfortunate) that I had had in college and the green hooded sweatshirt that I always wore (it was freezing cold in the massive auditorium). He also said in that letter that he shared it with his wife, another career educator, and they were both touched by how thoughtful I had been. I bawled my eyes out reading his letter; I couldn’t believe that he remembered me, but then I thought that I shouldn’t have been surprised – that’s exactly what made Dr. Diehl such a wonderful professor. He is now the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at my undergrad, and by all accounts, doing a terrific job.

  • Pam November 5, 2012, 2:29 pm

    Love this idea for November! I think a lot of what’s wrong with our world could be cured by gratitude. I think I’ll go home and write “Thank You’s” to all those who’ve inspired me and let my kids join in too. It will be our fun alternative to Christmas cards 🙂

  • Library Diva November 5, 2012, 2:38 pm

    Years ago, my car broke down on a desolate stretch of highway. This was before cell phones were as widespread as they are today, but it was in the middle of the Adirondack Park, and I’m not even sure if having a phone would have helped. It was late at night. I was alone. I had no idea what I was going to do and just started walking. They had emergency phones, and I knew there was one far up ahead, so I started out on foot even though it was December and very cold. A couple saw me and pulled over. They not only drove me to the next exit to call AAA, they stayed with me until the truck came AND drove me the rest of the way to my destination — about 30 more miles. They were so nice, so helpful, I thanked them profusely, but you can never do enough to thank someone like that. I do believe they may have literally saved my life. It was really cold out there and that stretch of highway is not well-traveled even in the daytime. I shudder to think what might have happened to me if it weren’t for their kindness and generosity. That was about 10 years ago now. I hope that what they did for me has come back to them a thousandfold. And on the offchance that they see this, I want them to know that every time I see a stranger who looks to be in trouble, I think of them and do what I can to pay it forward.

  • sweetonsno November 5, 2012, 2:59 pm

    I get thank-yous from my older relatives, but pretty much nobody else. When I do get a thank-you, it delights me. Knowing that, I try to send thank-yous as regularly as possible. That reminds me. . . I have one to work on now! (I just found the best biology teacher the world has ever known in the white pages.)

    Thanks for the reminder!

  • anon November 5, 2012, 3:03 pm

    A few years after I graduated from high school I received a note in the mail from one of my high school teachers. To put it simply, she thanked me for being in her class and said that the only thing that keeps her going year after year is the hope that each year she will have one student like me. That was 30 years ago and you can be sure I will never part with that note.

  • JD November 5, 2012, 3:12 pm

    A lovely friend was dying of cancer. One day I felt the overwhelming urge to write to her. She and I had worked on committees together, we attended the same church, and she had taught my children when they were in high school. I sat down and carefully wrote a note that expressed no negative thoughts, just the joy her friendship was giving me, how much I missed her at the times she had to miss church (for treatments), what a great reader she always was for our church, and how much my kids admired her. I made sure to mention that my kids credited her for preparing them for college courses, having taken her college level classes in high school (all true). I drew a funny little sketch of a mouse in a teacup peeking over the edge of the rim (she loved teas ) at the top of the page. I saw her again a few days after she’d had time to receive it, and she greeted me with a hug and whispered in my ear, as we were in a noisy crowd at the time, that it was the sweetest, loveliest letter she’d ever had. She kissed me on the cheek and told me she loved me. She died a short time later. I will be forever grateful that I followed that urge! Since then, I have taken the occasion to write a few other private letters to people such as older relatives, just to tell them I love them and thanking them for the difference they’ve made in my life,listing some of my cherished memories. Believe me, the effort to write the notes was small compared to the happiness the recipients tell me I’ve given.

  • Pickles001 November 5, 2012, 3:29 pm

    When I was a little girl I had a wonderful aunt who never failed to send birthday and Christmas cards with small gifts. I had not been taught to send thank-you notes. (In defense of my parents they did the best they could in difficult circumstances and survival was the top priority). As a teen I realized the oversight and wrote my aunt a letter thanking her for all the gifts she had sent over the years and apologizing for the late recognition. She wrote back the nicest letter. It seems my parents had been sending thank you notes all along. And she said the the most gracious thing, “This is like having the pleasure of giving the gift twice.”

  • Jess November 5, 2012, 4:52 pm

    A few years ago I caught a train up to Sydney to buy a car, on the way home it broke down on a busy highway. I was so upset but I had gotten emergency roadside with the car and the lady was so helpful. She found a tow truck driver who agreed to come out and help me even though his shift had ended, he was very kind and drove me around several mechanics to find one that was open and stayed with me as the mechanic explained what was wrong. The car needed to be fixed the next day and it was getting dark; the tow truck driver had to go and file a report with the insurance company then he came all the way back to the mechanic to pick me up and drive me to the nearest macdonalds to wait until my father in law could pick me up! I was still hours from home and did not know the town at all.

    I was so grateful for both the insurance lady and the tow truck driver. I was so upset I regret I did not get the womans name but I did thank the tow truck driver over and over. Last year around christmas I found out the tow truck driver had been killed in the same spot he had helped me, after he had stopped to help a stranded young lady after his work hours as he did with me. He was hit by a road train. He had a wife and young children and the news story said he had once driven a girl all the way to sydney because she had been moving to University and everything she owned was in her car. I can never tell this man how grateful I am.

  • babs November 5, 2012, 5:46 pm

    That’s very sweet, and I’ve enjoyed reading the responses. I have to admit that my grown kids have not been the best at getting out notes to their grandparents, although they were taught to do this as they were growing up. When my father-in-law passed away, we went through stacks of his correspondence. I used them to make labels from the return addresses to let his friends know since we had moved him from another part of the state to live with us. We found that one of our nieces had written many long and newsy letters to him, and he had saved all of them. I think handwritten letters and thank-yous unfortunately have started fading away, but this reminds me that everyone appreciates a personal note, especially our elderly friends and loved ones. Coincidentally, just this morning I got a letter out to my dad who was placed from my sister’s home into a nursing home last week. I’ve always called him regularly but almost never write. Now, I’m so glad I did!

  • KitKat November 5, 2012, 7:32 pm

    I just got a thank you note from a cousin today from her bridal shower which was two weekends ago. It was wonderful to get.
    Also, kind of in the same vein of thanking people, I have a short story from today. One of my residents had a breakdown on me. I hugged her, told her how much I loved her, and that everyone at the nursing home wanted to see her get better. She told me that it was a long time since she had been hugged and rocked (we were sitting up; I tend to rock a lot naturally). It’s wonderful when the residents say thank you even if they don’t use those words.

  • GC Girl November 5, 2012, 8:17 pm

    Many years ago in primary school, I had a French teacher named Mrs. R who was a very strict and fair teacher. There was no nonsense in her classroom and if you or the entire class misbehaved in any manner, she would have you write out the English and French present tense of the verbs avoir (to have) and être (to be) as many times as she deemed fit. So, after a while, we all had to memorize these two verbs so when we were assigned them as punishment, we could crank them out in a heartbeat. We all lived in fear of her because of her strictness. It was only after I went on to junior high school and continued taking French that I discovered the benefit of her lesson…when using the past tense in French, you needed to modify the verb you were using with either avoir or être. So my classmates who went to my primary school, including myself, found our junior high French lessons so much easier because we knew both these verbs cold.

    By this time, Mrs. R had moved to another primary school. Meanwhile I was earning extra money by babysitting two sisters and to my surprise I found out the older sister had Mrs. R for French and she was getting the same lessons I received years ago. I then wrote Mrs. R a thank you note, explaining that now I appreciated her lessons and the “punishments” of writing out these two verbs and thanked her for making my junior high French lessons much easier. I then asked the older sister to please deliver my note to Mrs. R the next time she had French class. The next time I babysat the sisters, the oldest proudly told me that she delivered my note to Mrs. R, who read it to the class and cried a little because she never expected to be thanked for her lesson.

  • Monica November 5, 2012, 9:11 pm

    I love your idea of Unexpected Thank You Month. I have so much gratitude for so many people toward whom I was never able to properly express it. It’s much easier for me to put my thoughts into writing so I think I will commit several hours to that using some lovely thank you cards over the next couple weeks.

    Here’s one: Thank you, EHell and its lovely mod for enlightening me over the last two and a half years since I found it. Not that I was ever so far gone but I have learned about situations I haven’t yet encountered. I’ve always had that urge to behave as properly as possible for the sake of behaving properly and while my entire life and circumstances have been inadvertently sheltered from such adverse circumstances as many of your readers have faced, I believe I can gracefully deal with them with the knowledge that I’m not out of turn or boorish in my approach. You are a gift.

    And thank you, EHell submitters and commenters, for all your perspectives and stories. You are gifts, as well.

    Happy November, everyone!

  • Kate November 5, 2012, 9:29 pm

    That is a beautiful memory. I’m glad you were able to have such a close and special relationship with your grandmother!
    I send birthday and Christmas cards to both of my grandmothers every year (both grandfathers have passed away). My father’s mum doesn’t seem to care, never acknowledges them, and it always seems like sort of a chore sending them off to her each year. My mum’s mum, on the other hand, not only displays them proudly in her room but apparently tells the other residents at her nursing home about how kind it is of some of her grandchildren to remember her and send a card. (There are a LOT of grandchildren – my mum is one of eight children, all of whom have at least two kids of their own). Not only that, but despite her increasing memory loss, she always takes the time to ask me about my life when I visit and remembers details like what I’m studying at uni. Hearing that my small gesture of birthday and Christmas cards to her has such an impact makes me extremely happy.

  • Kate November 5, 2012, 9:32 pm

    Also, Admin – as a student teacher, you would be surprised how much those notes from students make your day! My first teaching placement, I was nervous as all get out and thought I’d done a horrible job, at least in the first week or so. Getting a little book from one girl which described me as ‘the best student teacher ever’ and talked about what she’d enjoyed over the course of my placement boosted my confidence immensely!

  • VanessaW November 5, 2012, 9:43 pm

    Although I’m rather sporadic about it, I’ve got a pack of thank you note cards at work. When someone I know has done something special – put together a large event I’ve attended or the HR people who were very helpful when I first started – I send out a card with a handwritten note. ALL of them have sent me emails saying how much they appreciated being thanked.

  • Kry November 6, 2012, 12:00 am

    Near where I live (Gippsland Australia) there is a farm that backe onto the freeway and every christmas places a Santa doing different things each year. The first year I lived there Santa was a swagman with a sign saying Merry Christmas, another year Santa was on a ‘water ski’ and the boat was driven by the reindeer. My children and I know to look out for the new one from mid november. The best was when Santa was waving from the dunny (out side toilet). On boxing daythe(still) sceene of a bull dozer was tipping the dunny over with Santa inside. Thge bulldozer had a sign ‘Rudolphs revenge!’ on its side. We dont know who does these wonderful sceenes but I thank them mentaly each time we see them.

  • Jenn50 November 6, 2012, 1:55 am

    I have worked as a volunteer firefighter and EMT in our small town for nearly 20 years. I have attended emergencies for nearly everyone in town at some point in that time, and for those with chronic health problems, I’ve taken care of them many times. This Christmas, a gift was dropped off at the station for me; a gift box full of candy and gift cards for dinner and a movie. The unsigned card read “Spend some time with YOUR family after all the times you’ve left them to take care of everyone else’s.” Our service would not normally allow us to keep gifts like this, but since it was anonymous, it couldn’t be returned to the giver. I recognized the handwriting, and the sentiment. I know darned well who left it at the station door, but the couple denies it, and when I tried to thank them, they smiled slyly and said “We don’t know what you’re talking about, but you deserve it. It is always such a relief to see you, that’s when I know everything will be okay.” The couple are retired emergency services personnel from another discipline, and would have known the rules surrounding gifts, as well as how to circumvent them. The gift came at a time when my morale was low. I had had a really tough month; it was the holidays, we’d been really busy, several of my patients hadn’t survived, I was being prepped to testify in a lawsuit about a car wreck I’d attended, and things were particularly rough at home. Finances were terribly tight, and we were struggling to find ways for our sons to enjoy all the usual Christmas festivities, even though those events were extremely difficult on our autistic daughter. I was feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and as though I was spinning my wheels and not accomplishing anything in my life. The emerald green gift box full of goodies warmed my heart. It lifted my spirits to know that I had made someone feel comforted when they were in distress, and I sat at the desk in our office crying with gratitude for the emotional boost. I have never been able to express to those people what their kindness meant to me.

  • Erika November 6, 2012, 6:48 am

    I’ve done that too!
    A few months back I went in for my annual eye exam at the local chain-store optician. During the exam the young optometrist detected a potentially dangerous condition in my skull. She immediatly referred me to an opthalmologist for more tests; then an MRI and a visit to a neurologist. Thankfully the neurologist decided that I had a benign condition that just mimicked something worse.
    During the whole complicated process the optometrist kept in touch with me and took a keen interest in the whole process and the results of the testing.
    I was so greatful for her care and attention that I got onto her company’s FaceBook page and left a message about her. Little did I know but the message got passed up through the company and they even published it in the company’s internal newsletter and heaps of people complimented her on it. She sent me the cutest little card thanking me for all my kind words. She said that she couldn’t believe that someone had made that much effort for her. Turned out she was fresh out of University and my appreciation did so much for boosting her confidence and making her more determined to follow her chosen career path. It only took me a few minutes and it was a spur of the moment decision but it changed someones day for the better and thats a great feeling!!

  • Jane Susanna Ennis November 6, 2012, 6:24 pm

    ‘I love stationery’ ….me too! Not only do I use it to write notes to people, I buy it as Xmas gifts for friends . Not saying we don’t e-mail each other or talk on the phone, just that stationery is more of a personal gesture.

  • Allison November 6, 2012, 11:48 pm

    Oh, I also wrote a note to the Head Office of her company, saying how great she was, how she went above and beyond, etc, etc, I never heard back from them, but I hope it got down the chain to her or her boss.

  • sio8bhan November 7, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Library Diva
    You were so lucky. I know that stretch in the Adirondacks, and a cell phone wouldn’t have helped because of lack of towers in the area. I believe they’re trying to change that, because people have died since then because of delayed help after accidents. One couple died of exposure because no one saw them until it was too late, and a bus accident resulted in a few deaths, because cell phones wouldn’t work. There are many kind people, but it’s luck when they happen to see a problem and can help.

  • June First November 7, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I love stationery, too!

    I used to write to my elderly relatives every Sunday. I was living in a different part of the country, and figured they would enjoy the mail as much as I did. They weren’t able to write back, but it was nice to still write to them.

    When I met one of my grandfather’s caregivers at his funeral, she said, “Oh, you’re the one who wrote all the letters!”
    It was very gratifying to hear that, and later learn he kept all the letters.

  • Allison November 7, 2012, 5:52 pm

    Hrmm, for some reason my first story wasnt published. Sorry if my comment makes no sense 🙂

  • penguintummy November 9, 2012, 4:57 am

    All these stories are so lovely! I had a hard and often dull shift at work, caring for a patient with severe anorexia (she weighs only 24kg). She frustrates us all because she is so sick and still cannot bring herself to eat anything. She must be observed all the time because she tries to stop the IV feeding or exercise. As I was going home, my shift manager said ‘thank you so much for looking after her, I know she is difficult’. It was so nice to know that someone else appreciated that she was so frustrating to care for.

  • Cher630 November 23, 2012, 7:58 pm

    When I was younger, I loved the American Girl collection (dolls and books based on history). They actually inspired my love of history and I even majored in history when I was in college.

    I wrote them a letter a few years ago, thanking them for their beautiful dolls and well written (and historically accurate!) books. I told them that they helped inspire my love of history and continue my love of reading as a child. They emailed me back and thanked me for my letter.

    I’m a teacher now and I love when the 5th graders I teach bring in the AG catalog and books 🙂

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