I’m lucky to have people in my life who send great thank-you notes.
Andrea is the thirty-something daughter of good friends. For almost
a quarter of a century, I’ve loved finding note cards addressed to
“K Palen” in my mailbox. Her notes are funny and often a bit snarky, and they remind me of the smart and talented person who wrote them.
Mia and James are the teenage-age twins of another set of good friends. Their early thank-you notes were crayon drawings or messages dictated to their mom. The notes they send now continue to be as different as the two of them are. Mia’s notes include details and warmth, while James’ are a bit more formal in the way that adolescent boys sometimes write. (I love when he signs his first and last name just in case I don’t which James it might be.)
Juanita is the newest addition to my band of great senders of thanks. She’s a centenarian who actually sends thank-you letters rather than notes. In beautifully petite script, she writes about her life—both in the retirement center she now calls home and during her days growing up on a farm or raising her children or sharing in her late husband’s ministry. Her letters remind me how alive someone can be at any age.
But it’s a different note that’s been in my thoughts over the past couple of months. The envelope had a Colorado return address that didn’t ring any bells. But everything on the envelope was handwritten, so it didn’t appear to be junk mail.
The envelope contained a thank-you note from someone who’d been part of a pilgrimage I took through Ireland in fall 2018.
She said thanks to the pandemic she’d had time to go through files. She discovered the roster from our shared pilgrimage. Next to my name was written: “Write her a note.”
And that’s what she did more than eighteen months later. She wrote to thank me for a loaf of soda bread I bought for her at a small bakery in one of the towns we visited.
To be honest, I’d forgotten about the bread and the bakery. And if I’m totally honest, I’d forgotten about the note’s author. Not forgotten about her exactly, but not thought about her since returning from Ireland.
That simple thank-you note brought back memories of the bread, the bakery, the note writer, her two sisters, and other fellow pilgrims.
It also caused me to think about people from my past I might thank.
From time to time, I’ve sent thanks to mentors and role models and others who’ve made major contributions to my life. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
Who are the people who’ve shared a small kindness or spoken a word of encouragement or offered a gift that wasn’t necessarily of great monetary value? What might it mean to take a few minutes to recall those people and send them a note?
It dawned on me that such rearview mirror thanks might contain echoes of Easter. That looking into life’s rearview mirror might do more than revive memories of past experiences and relationships.
It might also encourage me to be mindful of how and when I encounter such experiences and relationships today. And it might inspire me to hope that new experiences and relationships will be possible in the future.
So as we move through this season of Easter and these days of pandemic, I plan to write some thank-you notes of my own. And I hope to hear an echo of Easter in each one.
Associate Executive Minister