I told a friend of mine the other day that I wanted to bring back the lost art of letter writing. I admit, I am guilty of sometimes just sending a thank you text. If truth be told, I probably am also guilty of thinking I have thanked someone when I probably thought about sending them a text, but I was in the car, and then when I got home my children were acting crazy, and then it was too late at night, and then it was too early in the morning, and then I just totally thought I had done it, but I did not really do it; so in essence I had not adequately shown my gratitude. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be the one that is so busy with life that I don’t stop to appreciate the people and things that make life worthwhile.
Recently, a man in my hometown, who I used to work with but rarely see, stopped by Southern Charm and brought me a cup of coffee. It was so thoughtful and unexpected. I sent my mom a text, “Billy Houston just brought me a cup of coffee. How about that?” Oh, I thought about texting him and saying thanks, but I wasn’t sure if I had his number, or if he texted, or blah blah blah. A week or so later, he brought me another cup of coffee. And it was on a day that I really needed a lift. Text to mom: “Billy Houston just brought me another cup of coffee. What the hell? How awesome is that?” That night, I decided I must send a written thank you note. When I got home, I decided that I couldn’t send him a note on my Barbie stationary (although I did send a note to a local pastor and his wife on a Barbie card and they found it endearing, or so they indicated), but I vowed to send a note the next day. When I got to work, I pulled a card out of my stash under the counter, wrote him a note, luckily ran into his daughter who told me he had a PO Box and gave me the correct address, put a stamp on the envelope, and managed to even get the envelope into the mailbox at the post office. Boom. Mission accomplished.
Why is this important? Because when people go out of their way to show someone kindness, they do it because they want to; not because they have to. And because the minute we stop doing random acts of kindness or we stop appreciating these moments of humanity, we become empty vessels. The people who show kindness do so to bring others joy. But if they are never thanked, or at least acknowledged, their light begins to dim. It sparks a chain reaction that lessens their desire to do for others. Then before you know it, we are all just a bunch of self-centered asshats who can’t see the needs of others and don’t care to reach out even if we could.
Last week I got a lovely hand written thank you note from Haley Ates. This didn’t really shock me. Her mama is an English teacher and obviously raised her right. (In case her mama sees this, yes, I know you rear children and don’t raise them, but whatever, I think reared sounds weird. Blame it on rap music.) Not to mention she is young and engaged and more than likely trying to use up all of her stationary so she can get some new cards with her new last name printed on them. But this week I got a hand written thank you note from a man. Not only a man, from a football coach. And it arrived within a week of the event for which he was thanking me. I don’t want to act like an athletic man is less likely to hand write a personal thank you note, but in my opinion, and man is less likely to hand write a personal thank you note.
The impression this left on me wasn’t that Haley and Coach Moore are a crazy rare breed of humans who know how to hold a pencil and lick an envelope. It let me know that they are humble people of gratitude. The impact of these notes was a reaffirmation of my need to not only continue showing others, whether friends or strangers, that I care about them through small tangible acts or tokens of kindness, but to also take the time to truly thank those who show kindness to me. I needed this reminder. It’s often easier to anonymously pay for a policeman’s lunch, or (my favorite) buy the blue-collar old man’s single can of beer at the gas station after he has gotten off from an obviously long workday, than it is to thank the people who are closest to us who do so much for us every single day.
By the way, a great random act of kindness is a hand written note. Feel free to help me bring back the lost art of letter writing or to steadfastly show small kindness to others by commenting or messaging me your mailing address, or the mailing address of someone you know who may appreciate the kindness of a stranger. I’m not saying I’m going to mail you a Barbie card before the weekend is over. I mean I’ve got wine to drink and this DVR isn’t going to watch itself. But it will give me a database, if you will, of people to share life with over the course of the year.
I think I’m going start by mailing a card to my mom. She lives next door to me, but I bet she would like to read my words of appreciation instead of hearing me casually calling, “Thanks!” over my shoulder as I walk across the yard carrying a can of Fresca or masking tape or whatever item I’ve borrowed that I will never return. And to whomever is reading this… hey, thanks.