On Christmas Eve, I received a stack of cards from people in my church family. When I got home that night, I plugged in the tree, turned on the fire (yes, we’re cheaters), and collapsed on the couch to read the cards.
You know those days when you feel like nothing you do really matters and no one cares about your hard work and you might as well put in only half the effort you usually do because no one notices when you tweak something for the umpteenth time anyway? And then, just for fun, you get all swallowed up by self-doubt and you reach the only logical conclusion, which is that no one likes you? Yeah, I hate those days. But have you ever been having one of those days—or a whole string of them—and then someone does something so remarkably thoughtful that all that Yuck evaporates and the sun comes back out and suddenly you’re petting a unicorn who’s just delivered to you a bouquet of your favorite flowers and an ice cream cone?
That actually happened to me on Christmas Eve.
The cards I received were so beautiful. People wrote the sweetest, most affirming messages. Were many of the cards attached to plates of homemade goodies? Oh, yes they were. And did many of them contain gift cards? Oh yes, they did. I was floored.
I was still thinking semi-clearly—despite the long day and big emotions that come with unexpected generosity—so as I was opening the cards, I was jotting down whom I needed to thank and for what. Brilliant!
Except I only wrote people’s last names. And two families in our church have the same last name. Both gave cards. One contained incredibly affirming words and has found its way into my “look in here when you’ve decided no one likes you” file. The other contained a Starbucks gift card. And I had no earthly idea which was which.
I was taught that thank you notes should be specific and heart-felt, so I wasn’t going to just write:
Thanks so much for your encouragement. Happy holidays.
Winner of the 2014 Lame Thank You Card Award
I was also taught that it’s ridiculous to send a card to someone who’s sent you a card. (I’m still not sure I agree; gracious words are a gift, as far as I’m concerned, and the Bible agrees with me, so I’m obviously right.)
I considered this:
Dear Wonderful People,
Thank you for the Starbucks card. If you gave it to me, I mean. Otherwise, thank you for the message you wrote.
The Queen of Dorkland
But that didn’t seem quite right either.
Know what I did? I decided etiquette-schmetiquette and I emailed one of them and asked. Yep, I sure did—with the subject line “Awkward Question.” And she responded. With more kindness.
This may seem like a trivial situation, but here’s what it got me thinking: Authenticity breeds kindness. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, if you’re real with people, they’ll be real with you. Eventually, we’ll all realize—and accept—that we’re all just a little—or a lot—messed up. At that point, there will be nothing left to do but extend kindness to one another. Can you imagine?
The other thing I learned: “Thank You?” notes are now a thing.