Up Front and Personal

A Note of Thanks In Ordinary Time

By Lucia A. Silecchia

My mother was a fan of thank-you notes.

I was not.

Although I liked to write, this particular genre was not a favorite of mine in my younger days. I will admit that, after Christmas or my birthday, I saw the writing of thank-you notes as a chore. I enjoyed shopping for thank-you cards, and I invested in stamps and stationery, but putting pen to paper was another thing entirely.

Then, I grew up. My younger self would be horrified to know that writing notes of gratitude is now something that I not only tolerate, but cherish.

Today, the notes I write are not often for material gifts received—although I am still blessed with those. So often now, the things that touch my heart and move me to gratitude are acts of love, acts of kindness, acts of sacrifice and acts of friendship. It seems to me that these are things worthy not merely of gratitude, but expressions of gratitude.

In this season of Thanksgiving, my heart is turned again toward what makes me deeply grateful—beginning with the chance to celebrate a national holiday devoted to thanking God for so many blessings. Prayers of gratitude toward God quickly become prayers of gratitude for all the people in my life who are His great gifts to me.   

So, it somehow seems more proper than ever, in this season of gratitude, to think about those people yet again and to take some time to write a note—short or long. Texts, emails, or phone calls of gratitude are all good, but for myself, I have found that penning an actual letter does much good for me. In turn, I hope it may hold some benefit for the recipient.

For me, taking the time to put into words what some kindness has meant to me is a way to share a prayer of gratitude, to consider how I might offer similar kindnesses to others, and to remember that serving others with acts of love is part of a life well lived.

A thank-you note may be a small blessing to the one who receives it. Perhaps a note arrives on a day that has not gone well, and it can be a small sign of encouragement.  Maybe the note will encourage future kindnesses. Maybe the note is for a long-ago kindness, and it restores happy memories of a good deed. Maybe the note will let the recipient know that gestures need not be splashy or grand to be worth celebrating; rather, seemingly unnoticed kindnesses can mean the world to someone.

Maybe the note will be stashed away in a desk drawer and be rediscovered years from now when a reminder of gratefulness is most needed.

Perhaps in the midst of Thanksgiving’s happy blur, it may be time to think of someone whose simple act of love made your life a little better, whose simple words of encouragement got you through a dark season of life, or whose good example helped you keep the faith. A note to say thanks may brighten their day, bring joy to your heart, and turn your gaze, even for a brief moment, to the good and beautiful things for which the world hungers.

May you be blessed with a joyous Thanksgiving—with gratitude for the gifts that are great and for the everyday blessings of ordinary time.

Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America.