Friday, March 14, 2014

Thank You, Seven Years Late

People have strong feelings about Thank You notes.

We did not get a thank you note for a wedding gift we had shipped to a couple getting married in Denver until a full year had passed. According to Emily Post, contrary to popular myth, a couple does not have a year’s grace period. All thank you notes should be written within three months of the receipt of the gift according to Emily's protocol.

At a family member's wedding the bride came to the microphone during the reception, thanked everyone for their gifts and said she was not sending thank you notes. The mother of the bride was so embarrassed, she sent the thank you notes instead.

When we combined our wedding gift thank you note with a Christmas greeting we were criticized for breach of protocol. If you live in the Southern states it’s not unusual to receive a thank you note for inviting someone in for a cup of coffee which usually arrives not much after you almost finish cleaning up the cups and saucers. And now in the age of evites and electronic greeting cards, thank you notes arrive electronically for everyone on our friends list to read.

Older adults lament the fact that young people do not adequately acknowledge gifts and demonstrate gratitude. The current youth generation does not typically write notes, but there’s still the push-button telephone, as old fashioned as it may be. Texting works if one can decipher the acronyms and symbols.

Despite all of the do and don’t of thank you notes, one of the best thank you notes I ever received did not arrive until seven years after the fact.

The story of the Seven Years Late Thank You note began, obviously, seven years ago! Couple friends decided they wanted to invite their neighborhood to supper on a Monday evening and introduce them to the Gospel. Feeling less confident about the Scriptural part they invited me and my wife to handle that portion of the evening. Their written invitations to the neighbors clearly indicated there would be spiritual discussion. Amazingly, about 20 people showed up and ultimately committed to a six week study. The neighbors may have showed up for the food, but they ended up with a different food that brought them back for more.

Having no knowledge of the neighbors or their walks in life, I prayed long and hard for the Lord to reveal the right Scripture passage for this gathering on the first night. I felt drawn to Joshua 1:9 ___ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

After I shared that passage, one couple opened up and related, through teary words, how their 14 year-old daughter had died from an asthma attack and the Joshua verse was her favorite passage and her daily meditation. Their testimony spoke to each one in the group ____ be strong and courageous as we confront any hurdle in life.

The group was an overwhelming success. At the close of the six-week study the host family wrote me a thank you note, put it aside and forgot to mail it … until seven years later. My friend said she had found the note in a drawer between some papers and decided to mail it anyway as it would provide an opportunity to once again praise God for his faithfulness.

Just as Joshua 1:9 spoke to the group attendees … the thank you arriving seven years later spoke to my spirit. There are always some days God has to send a faithful witness or a blessing from left field to remind us to be strong, courageous, and know he will always be with us. The seven-year-late thank you note did just that for me.

Sometimes rules need to be put aside. Most people would not dream of sending a thank you note seven years after the fact. But I’m glad my friend did, because that’s exactly what God knew I needed the day it arrived.

It really does not matter how we say thank you ___ whether it be Facebook, an old fashioned push-button telephone, snail mail, smart phone or texts full of grammar errors and misspelled words. And it really doesn’t matter when we say thank you. Emily Post may say we have X amount of time to say thank you. I say, “Forget it! Just do it!”

It is far better to say thank you, regardless of the timing, than to not say thank you at all.

Here’s a suggestion: Think about someone you should thank for any reason ___ a gift, an act of kindness, being a friend or close family member. Call, write, text and say thanks for being part of your life. If you’re reminded about lateness or other set of rules, acknowledge it and smile through it, because you’ve already done the most important part ___ you said thank you. Then trust the Lord because you have no idea what blessing God has in store for the recipient of your gratitude.

Robert Parlante
March 2014

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