Saying Thank You

Monday, December 27, 2010
Thank-you Note
I wanted small pierced earrings (gold).
You gave me slippers (gray).
My mother said that she would scold
Unless I wrote to say
How much I liked them.

Not much.

- Judith Viorst

I'm not sure when it started, middle school probably, but a long time ago, I got on a kick of writing thank-you notes for all the Christmas gifts I received from relatives. Just another manifestation of a good-two-shoes personality, I suppose. Writing the notes made me feel somewhat morally superior, but more than that (and unlike the narrator in the poem above), they made me feel good and more aware of my blessings and gifts.

I still write thank you cards, but they've become more of an obligation: just another line on the to-do lists, something I mean and want to do, but which often get bumped down on the priorities. The thank you notes get sent out later and later each year and I spend more time wondering if I really need to do that again this year.

Yet every holiday season, I am overwhelmed with gifts and an abundance of good food. Beyond gifts of lovely things, this holiday season has also brought  time to spend with family and friends. On Christmas, after all the festivities had wrapped up, my brother came home with Andy and I to spend the night. Yesterday morning we sat in the living room, drinking coffee and talking about life as we know it at this current moment. And I realized something about this life in the cabin. 

It might not be the most exciting life. It certainly isn't the most lucrative. But it's a very happy life.

I believe happiness is an accomplishment. And those who contribute to our happiness deserve more thanks than we can word. And they definitely get a card . . .

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow for the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions.

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
looking up from tables we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes

of our lives we are saying thank you

with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

       -- W.S. Merwin


  1. I enjoy the rituals involved with sending both holiday cards and thank you notes. We usually write our notes either on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, and out they go. They're a day late getting out this year because we were snowed in, but otherwise, we're pretty prompt.

    Instead of "another item on the To-Do list", I look at it as a way to count my blessings.

  2. Very nice post!



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