Thank-you note: Still good manners

It's not what you say to acknowledge that gift from far away or close by, it's that you take the time to say it
2013-01-17T00:00:00Z Thank-you note: Still good mannersOpinion by Barbara Russek Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Santa's back at the North Pole with an empty sleigh. Gifts have been used, enjoyed, or maybe exchanged. Wrapping paper and ribbon have been tossed or added to the stash. There is one thing that may be left to do - acknowledge those gifts.

Children and adults alike often resist that last piece of the puzzle. Why? I'm not really sure.

The good news is that according to Emily Post, if the gift is opened in person, we can warmly thank Aunt Tilly or Uncle Elmer then and there. Any gesture of gratitude above and beyond that is appreciated but not required.

Ah, but there's the rub. Many gifts are mailed to loved ones near and far. A more formal thank-you in that case is de rigueur. You can phone or email the gift-givers or send a hand-written note (my personal favorite).

Even in our technologically advanced age, nothing else quite conveys appreciation as much as taking a few extra minutes to sit down and compose a heartfelt message.

Many folks protest that when it comes to writing a thank-you note, they are at a loss for words. Kids and teens in particular who send texts about all manner of things, including who wore what to school that day or who has a major crush on whom, are suddenly afflicted with a severe case of writer's block while trying to compose a simple thank-you note.

No need to panic on that score. Aunt Tilly and Uncle Elmer aren't looking for Chaucerian prose or Shakespearian iambic pentameter. Even if you're truly drawing a blank, you can consult a book on composing notes.

The point is not really what we say, it's that we say something that reflects our gratitude for someone having done something for us.

A couple of conversations I had over the holidays point out that writing a simple expression of thanks is still a huge deal for a lot of people. One afternoon, I noticed a young woman in Starbucks with a stack of thank-you cards in front of her, dutifully checking off names. I had to tell her how impressed I was. She then confessed that she was thanking people for gifts received at her bridal shower … three months ago.

"Can you believe this is the first chance I've had since September to sit down and write these cards?" she exclaimed.

A woman I met at a recent holiday party had a complaint that I'm sure rings true with many grandparents. Gifts that are sent to the children are frequently unacknowledged. Who is to blame for that faux pas? I'm sure we all know the answer to that one (hint: it's not the kids). As the woman shrugged her shoulders, the message was clear - there really wasn't much more she could do about that from thousands of miles away.

Indeed there is. The solution was given to me by a seventh-grader some years ago when I was confiding to the class my own gift-giving gripe. Every year for her birthday, I embroidered a doll for a special little girl who lived many miles away. Each unique piece in the collection required months to complete. I would get no thank-you, go into a panic thinking the doll had gotten lost in the mail, send a card asking if the gift had been received, then finally get a note thanking me.

As I told this story to the class, a girl politely raised her hand. "When I didn't send thank-yous to my nana, she finally sent me a note saying if this ever happened again, the gifts would come to an end."

Presto. After that she sent acknowledgements with amazing regularity! I tried that same message on little Mary and it worked like a charm.

Love is the overriding message of the holiday season. Maybe just a pinch of gentle tough love added to the mix could produce one of the best thank-you notes of all in years to come: a thank-you for the gift of good manners.

On StarNet: Read Barbara Russek's recent columns at

E-mail Barbara Russek at

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