July 2023
Leaves from My Notebook
Elaine Greensmith Jordan

Thank You

Dear Gramma: You are really nice to send me the red truck. It goes fast and crashes really wham. I love you Gramma. You sure know your trucks.

There is magic in thank-you notes like that one, a magic that spreads love and kindness in ways we can’t imagine. I’m talking about making people happy who are in need of a boost of good will — and that’s everyone.

I wrote a thank-you note recently to the rehab hospital where I was obliged to stay for three weeks. The help I got in that confinement was enormous and I had to thank two therapists who gave me comfort and hope.

I’m not sure why, but I think gestures of thanks seem to make more of a difference when written down. It may be because the writing can be saved and revisited, a reminder that once we responded to need, or gave a present, or felt grateful for help. We can hold that note in our hands, preserve it with a magnet on the refrigerator, or put it on the bulletin board in the office. I’ve seen them on the walls of car-repair shops and in doctors’ offices — and they stand on my desk at home.

Here are some examples of notes that have mattered enormously to me and others:

• I received a note from someone who was a guest at the birthday party I gave for myself. What a surprise to find that note in the mail!

• My husband and I received a written thank-you for a dinner we cooked for someone. We still remember it, and that was 13 years ago.

• I was thanked for designing a church worship service for a woman who was baffled by the task. She wrote such lovely things about my help.

• From my little niece: “Thank you for the ring game and the coloring book. I like them both, even though I do like the ring game.”

• After my book was published I got notes like this: “I’m a 33-year-old pastor, a bisexual woman, serving in my first call … I loved reading about your reflections on ministry life … like you, I saw the beauty … of community … I just wanted to say thank you for your book.”

• A person I barely know stopped me as I was doing my fitness walk to tell me that her daughter wrote a thank-you note to a surgeon “for saving my mother’s life.” Then the surgeon wrote back! This mother, whom I don’t even know, was so touched that she had to stop me and tell me about it.

• My late friend Janer Eldridge was so moved by the Master Chorale’s Brahms Requiem that she wrote a note of thanks to Dennis Houser, the conductor. He read it aloud to the Chorale, weeping.

• The disaster of September 11 inspired some beautiful thank-you notes from firefighters to those who fed them during their ordeal.

• To the newspaper that provided for a child to go to camp, the child wrote: “Dear Editor, When I think about camp, I think about when we swam …. We saw a river and we went in it. We told stories and I was in one. Then after that we ate marshmallows, then we went to the cabin. My worries were gone.”

• Here’s one from Mark Twain to his minister after his daughter died: “[I’ve learned] how you came all the way down twice from your summer refuge on your merciful errands to bring the peace and comfort of your beloved presence, first to that poor child and again to the broken heart of her poor, desolate mother ….”

• George HW Bush wrote many thank-you notes. Here’s one he wrote to Goldie Hawn: “Dear Goldie: Am I enchanted? You bet. Thanks for giving me such a relaxed good time at dinner . . .. You were a fantastic dinner partner. You made me feel welcome and totally at ease. I didn’t even have to unveil my 12-point plan for dealing with Gorbachev. Thanks for being so darn nice!”

I borrowed some of those notes from my sister’s book The Art of Thank You. I thank her.

“My worries were gone ….” I like to think written gestures of thanks make a difference even in the grand scheme of things. It might be that a tiny act of grace resonates through time and space, changing loss and fear into hope and joy.

Elaine Jordan, author of Mrs. Ogg Played the Harp, is a local editor who’s lived in Prescott for thirty years.