Eight letters of gratitude

 The holidays have ended with all their festivities, gift exchanges, baked goods and other ways of saying “I am thinking of you.” For better or for worse, the new year has come with its time for resolutions. One resolution everyone should make is to write eight letters to family and friends.

Just eight letters. Not a hundred or even twenty, just eight to each aunt, uncle, grandparent, parent, friend or loved one who opened their wallet to buy a gift or slip out a bill whispering “go buy yourself something.”

“Eight letters in 10 seconds? Impossible. It would take me at least 10 minutes to write just one.”

No, really. All it takes is 10 seconds to key into your computer, cell phone or tablet a simple note saying, “thank you.” That’s eight letters. A small investment of your time so the giver knows the item arrived in the mail, you opened it and appreciated the thought.

That bit of time would have meant a lot to my friend who moved to a new, more distant home that kept her from visiting family as often. She talked, wrote and thought of them often. When a new baby arrived, her circumstances kept her from going to see the child. Instead she thoughtfully prepared a gift and smiled as she slipped it into the mail. She just knew they would cherish her gift and waited for their response.

She waited for a phone call of excitement, “It came today and we love it!”

She waited for an email with a note “we used it for…”

She waited for a brief text message, “TY for the …”

She waited for a little ‘Thank You’ card in the mail.

She waited in vain. Nothing ever came. Maybe the parents received so much that they didn’t feel the blessing of the gift enough to acknowledge it.

A couple years later another baby arrived. She sent a card “welcoming the new baby.” She did not include her usual gift for newborns.

“I will wait and see if they notice” she said.

They didn’t.

Sometimes it takes a season of less to realize the blessing of the simplest of gifts.

Years ago the Christmas package for a college freshman included laundry detergent, coins for the laundromat and toothpaste. Basic necessities. A practical gift. The college student stared at the gift in silence, mumbled, “thank you” and grumbled later about the gift. It was not a fun gift or even an article of clothing. It was just stuff from the grocery store and a stack of coins. The detergent sat unnoticed until the credit card bill arrived for the Christmas gifts purchased and given. Then the list for the semester’s textbooks arrived with their high price.

Panic set in. Pleas for a bit extra were met with “how much do you absolutely need?”

After much discussion the reality hit. Nothing was needed if the luxuries of eating out, going to the movies and new clothes were deleted. The cafeteria provided nourishment. The part time job paid for bills, and the former ‘not quite good enough’ Christmas gift suddenly became a great treasure. There would be enough laundry detergent and quarters for the laundromat as well as toothpaste for the teeth.

Suddenly a thankful spirit for that practical gift rose up in eight letters, “thank you, I really needed that.”

Out of great need, the attitude of thanksgiving grew into eight letters.

Always we can say, “For these our many blessings, we thank you, Lord.” and then write ‘thank you’ for any gift given at any time.

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