Relationships

A Year of Magical Thanking

The Power of Writing Thank You Notes

A few weeks ago, I got the most intriguing email from my friend Catherine…

She was forwarding a note from her friend Gina. This is what it said:

“I am on this year-long quest to write a thank you note every day, and I’ve themed my months around different topics. I am in my ‘food’ month, and I wrote a note to Jenny because her cookbook meant a lot to me in my first year as a mother. Do you mind giving me her address?”

She didn’t want my email address, she wanted my address-address, as in a place where mail is delivered in the form of paper. I write the food blog Dinner: A Love Story, and people send emails thanking me for a chicken recipe or a relatable moment of writing, and it’s an understatement to say that these notes sustain me, and are largely the reason why I’ve been able to keep it alive all these years. But a handwritten note that was part of a larger thank-you campaign? Maybe it’s because I’ve suddenly found myself looking for more ways to connect with people beyond leaving a heart-eyes emoji on an Instagram post; or maybe it’s because the headlines are just so grim, so bright spots seem brighter, but I found myself fiercely latching on to the concept of expressing daily gratitude. Who is this enlightened scribe Gina and how can I be just like her?

Turns out, she is Gina Hamadey, a writer and content strategist, and a mother of two who lives in Brooklyn. She told me the project came to her after she and her son, Henry, 5, wrote thank-you notes for a City Harvest food drive she organized in 2017. There were 31 notes to write (and 31 days in January, which felt fortuitous) and she wrote many of them while commuting to a freelance job in New Jersey. (Henry would add his part later.) “When I was writing the notes,” she told me, “I realized that I was doing it instead of scrolling through my dumb feeds — so often I’d finish a commute and be like ‘Well that was a wasted hour on this quiet train ride.'” Writing the notes, though, felt positive. “I left the train feeling really good.” When she finished, she missed that feeling so much that she decided to turn it into a year-long campaign, writing one for every day of the year.

She themed each month to make it easier for herself (e.g., neighbors, friends, family, health, food, career mentors, writers), stocked up on some notecards (nothing fancy) and got to work.

She handed off notes to the woman who ran her local bookstore, to her babysitter, to the butcher, thanking him for making a fresh batch of soup for her after running out. She wrote friends she hadn’t seen beyond Facebook in years, reminding them of a memory or just saying “I miss you.”  She wrote a note to the doctor who delivered her younger son, Charlie, who’s two now; and to the heart doctor who saved her dad’s life. (“Oh my God, that was emotional.”) She wrote a career mentor thanking her for offering advice she thinks about every day. She wrote me! (“Post-kids, your book gave me back my confidence, and laid out a little plan for me in the kitchen… I actually love to cook! Thank you for helping me remember.”)

The letters are not lyrical, fountain-penned missives you’d find in a Jane Austen novel. “A perfect thank-you note is not very long,” Gina says, “But it’s earnest, specific, and from the heart.”

Sometimes she doesn’t have to walk very far to deliver her notes, like during “family” month, which she spent expressing gratitude for her husband and in-laws. Why them? “It’s all hands on deck with a two-year-old and a five-year-old,” she told me. “There’s so much to do, and everybody feels under-appreciated, right? But giving a thank-you note to my husband when he does something, like letting me sleep in — it’s very small, very easy, and free. Plus, it helps everyone in the house feel seen and acknowledged.”

I noticed that the project also helps one become more attuned to under-the-radar moments of kindness all around us. After I spoke with Gina, I found myself thanking the check-out woman at Papyrus for being so good at her job (I wasn’t just saying that, she was!) and she was incredulous with gratitude. I found myself practically tearing up after a guy let me have a prime parking spot at Trader Joe’s, even though it was debatable I was there first.  I thanked my husband for embracing the dreaded role of lightbulb changer in our house. (He was like “Um, what’s going on with you?”) Whether this turns into a full-on, year-long, stamp-and-envelope campaign, I doubt it. But if it does, my first note will be to Gina.

You can follow Gina’s progress on Instagram at @thankyouyear.

Would you try this? Who are you grateful for?

P.S. How to introduce people, and do you have a favorite poem?

(Art by Lucy Mail.)

  1. Anonymous says...

    My husband and I recently had our first baby. Amidst the sleepless nights and chaotic haze of the first few months, we started a new tradition – we write thank you letters to each other every day. (Well, every night would be a more apt description… ) I have saved each and every one. And I have to say, they mean more to me than any love letter he could ever write.

  2. Beth says...

    This story struck a deep cord with me and I’ve been ruminating on how to incorporate gratitude and appreciation more in my life since reading it. I’ve come to realize that I can take the heart of this message and try to instill it with others. Inspired by this story and idea I’ve created a new program at the high school library where I work called Thankful Thursdays. Students will have the opportunity to come to the library and write a thank you note to anyone of their choosing. We will provide supplies and will even deliver the notes. I think we can all use a little more appreciation and gratitude in our lives and thank you so much for this wonderful idea!

  3. A few years ago, I fell getting onto a city bus and hit my head pretty hard. (Blood everywhere thanks to my glasses slashing my forehead open. Don’t walk with your hands in your pockets, friends.) The bus driver did his best to cheer me up as he and I waited for the ambulance to arrive.

    A few days later, I wrote him a thank-you note. I carried it around with me for over a month until our paths finally crossed again. (I knew his route, but not his schedule.) I think the note made his day. Delivering it certainly made mine.

    Thanking people can be such a joy. I should do it (formally) more often.

  4. Yes, I’m going to write a thank you once a week and post the idea in my blog so others might do the same. Thanks for this great story.

  5. Oh my gosh I love this so much!! Written cards is a lost art! I love getting handwritten cards! Thanks for the post and GO GINA!!

  6. Steph says...

    I love this campaign, and while I don’t think I could maintain it every day, I’ve been trying to incorporate a similar practice into my daily life to increase positive thoughts and reduce anxiety. Each day I take a few minutes to think of the things, people, and situations in my life that I’m grateful for. If that were me receiving a random, hand-written thank you note just because, I would be so touched!

  7. I can never thank cupofjo enough for staying positive every single day. I found this blog back in 2008 when I just got married and I have come here over and over for daily doze of positivity. Those were very dark days in my life and you were there like a brave sister reminding to find joy in small things. Joanna, I could honestly say you have taught me how to live. You have taught me how to celebrate the mundane. You have taught me that it is ok to have an ordinary average life and we can talk about our daily lives like its the most special thing. Every life is beautiful. All lifestyles are ok and can be magical and it is only a matter of how one chooses to narrate it. When I first got married I worried about little things like am I living on par with my peers, and I’m not ashamed to say this because most of us come from cultures hiked on competition and everyone thinks they ought to compete with their neighbour instead of doing the right thing of loving neighbour as we love our own self. I could go on writing because Joanna you mean so much to me and your writings are mwwah. Thank you from my heart of hearts – a phrase I learned from no you.

  8. Paula says...

    I also send postcards. It’s so much more fun then an insta shot which just seems like bragging. It’s not even exotic locations. But I try to personalize them. For example, when I was in Key West I went to the Ernest Hemingway house, got post cards that just showed an interior of his writing room (which is such good decor inspo) and I send it to my friends who are into that kind of thing.

    I also go WAY out of my way to do care packages to families with new babies and/or people who are battling something. Nothing fancy or expansive. And I always include chocolate-moms always appreciate it.

    A good written and eloquent email also goes a long way. I have a family
    member who married into a Muslim family. She converted and I never remember Muslim holidays until they are upon us, so I don’t have the time to send a card. But I research the holiday, find out what it is about (do I say, YAY, festivities, or, good luck fasting) and then type an eloquent “holiday” email. She always responds with utter shock that I remember and how it’s meaningful to her b/c I remembered that she’s no longer “one of us” religiously speaking.

  9. Mariah says...

    I am a high school English teacher and I write a thank you note to each of my students at the end of the year. I thank them for being in my class and include a memory of them and well wishes for their future. Without fail, some students are moved to tears and others say it’s the first letter they’ve ever received. I have to start months in advance to write the 150-175 notes- but it’s worth every moment.

    • Paula says...

      THAT is so kind. and crazy time consuming which makes me tear up. The other day a teacher thanked ME (ME!!!) for my daughter, saying how she’s easy, helpful to other kids, and just in general how she helps her in
      the classroom and I just SOBBED right there in front of her.

    • Carolyn says...

      Yay, Mariah! I used to do this too when I was in the classroom. And I would photocopy the notes and keep them as my keepsake of my students. Kinda weird, but it worked. Haha. Also, I would always feel so close to my kids after I wrote them their letter, like I had just spent time with them. I’d want to greet them in an extra special way the next day at school, and I’d have to remind myself that the experience (at that point, before delivering the letter) was one sided! You too?

  10. Thank you notes are my favorite secret happiness. I love the idea that I’m passing some of my happiness back to the person who gave it to me (if that makes sense!). When my wife and I got married we sent out batches and batches of thank you’s and made sure to include the strangers who helped make the day we got married so special: the server at the bar who gave us free champagne and pumped us for details while we waited for marriage court to re-open after lunch. The owners of the restaurant we went to for dinner, who came out to congratulate us and bring us some treats. Everyone who worked at the hotel where we stayed on honeymoon. It was fun to reflect on our experiences and it felt lovely to get to say thank you!

  11. Laura Doherty says...

    i have always loved cards and sending them – but my newest accomplishment on that front is sharing that love with my husband. he’s a lawyer (as am i) and we designed him simple, beautiful notecards with his name at the top.
    he LOVES sending them! he sends them to thank colleagues for referrals, to thank clients for reviews, to thank past clients for sending new clients, or to thank colleagues for advice etc. he writes 3 – 5 a week and it’s been a fantastic exercise in recognizing the positives (in a stressful career where everything can often seem overwhelming) and many people have told him what a lovely surprise it was to get the card.

  12. I adore this. What a beautiful project to embark on. I’ve been contemplating writing Christmas cards for strangers that I come in contact with often (such as, people who work in the same centre as me), but decided against it as not everyone is into Christmas. Thank-you cards, however, can be given to anyone! The idea makes me feel very shy, but this post is really making me want to bite to the bullet and do it.

  13. Cora says...

    I wrote letters of gratitude a few years ago for Lent. It was only 40 days so it was a more manageable chunk. I wrote to people in my every day life and people who impact my life in small ways but might never know. I wrote one to the man who first greeted us at our church and made us feel so welcome that we became members. He wrote me a note of thanks For expressing the sentiment. During my excersize I found my mood improved and I looked forward to the task. It really is something everyone should try.

    • Elizabeth i walker says...

      This will be my Lent project! Thanks for the suggestion

  14. Jeanne says...

    I’ve been a letter writer since I was old enough to hold a pencil and put something down on paper. It’s my family’s way. Of course, I’m a bit older than most readers here, I think, so it’s probably more likely someone my age would not only love to write letters, but actually write the letters. My husband and I (I’m newly remarried, just over a year) wrote letters for an entire month before we even met. Snail mail. Not email. I love that ppl are thinking about letter writing again. For a long g while, I’ve felt it is a dying art and it has made me sad. I have almost every letter (and post card) my father wrote me. I keep them in a metal box, and there are quite a lot of them! I pull them out from time to time when I am really missing his wisdom and care (he died in 1999, the year I turned 36.) While it does take more time than whipping off an email, the joy it brings to put your words to paper and pick out a stamp, then send it off is immeasurable – – but only second to the joy it brings the person who opens their mail box to find a hand-written note from someone who has been thinking about them. I have tried to encourage my daughters to always write a thank you note, at the very least, and when they were young they protested dramatically. I had to practically tie them to the dining room table. 🙄 Now, the two oldest – at 27 & 25 – find themselves sitting down to write not only a note of thanks, but sometimes just a note to say Hi there. How are you? I’m thinking of you. I love it when they send me a snap of an addressed envelope before they dash it off to their local post office. Their grandfather would be quite proud.

  15. Wonderful project, I love it! Personally, I don’t think I can pull off a daily project like this, but it’s inspired me to think of something I could try in the next year. Honestly, I find that it takes a bit more effort to remind myself to be a little more kind, but one shouldn’t give up!

  16. Alex says...

    Yes! Love the gratitude idea, and SO EXCITED to see Lucy Mail!! She started selling her envelopes and they are such a happy surprise in the mail, I love finding an excuse to send them!!

  17. Patricia says...

    I got stuck with and/or volunteered to run a party for the employees of our senior resident building thanking all of them for all the stuff they do for us and in a warm friendly way. Along with giving them a bonus check, we decided we’d write a thank you note to each and every employee and saying “thank you” in their language (we’re part of a very multi-cultural multi-lingual community). It’s been a wonderful voyage of discovery learning how to say thank you in Eritrean and Albanian and Bahasa. I think I’m getting as much from this experience as our employees…

    • thank you year says...

      this is so beautiful. seriously made me tear up.

  18. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to Jenny, to Gina, to Joanna, for sharing this amazing message with the world. I started Of Note Stationers with my business partner Isabel so that we could encourage and support appreciation like this. The way you, Gina, and Jenny summed it up is magnificent and I welcome any one looking to start/continue a gratitude or letter writing practice to check our stationery out: http://Www.ofnotestationers.com, email us directly ofnotestationers@gmail.com so we can extend a discount. Sincerely Yours in the Pursuit of Acknowledging and Appreciating One Another & Deepening Connection with Ourselves and the World Around Us, Kate

  19. Giselle says...

    I am going to do this!!!! I have been writing in one of those “5-Minute Gratitude Journals” and the structure of writing the same thing was actually sort of difficult for me and making me feel challenged about my ability to feel gratitude!

    I love this idea of expressing gratitude every day and connecting to someone – it gives enough room for every day to be different but with the same beautiful intention of giving thanks.

  20. Lee says...

    I am a compulsive thank you note writer because my mother made me write them as a child and it became a habit. I am so glad she did! As an adult I’ve realized the benefits are twofold. One, the recipient feels truly acknowledged in a way that a text could never quite achieve. Taking the time and effort to send something via post shows real effort. Two, the sender is able to spend a moment truly appreciating the gift/help/fill in the blank. We are all moving so fast all day long that slowing down and actually feeling gratitude is mentally restorative.

  21. Jennifer says...

    So simple, magical and purposeful all at the same time.
    Best of all think of all the people smiling as they open those notes.

  22. Ms Nina G says...

    There is a book about an attorney in LA who wrote a thank you note every day for a year when he was going through a rough patch in his life – it is very inspiring and I read it years ago and highly recommend it.

    “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik “

  23. I, too, want to thank Jenny! And this is as good a place as any.

    Jenny, your book, Dinner: A Love Story, got me and my husband into the habit of keeping a food journal. More specifically, a dinner journal.

    We’ve started in 2014, and it has made a world of difference. I can look back and see what I’ve had for dinner on October 19th, 2014! I can see our journey and our evolution into eating more healthy and mindfully-planned meals. Once a week, we pull out the journal to record that week’s meals and draw inspiration for the following week. NOBODY I know does it, but it’s such a no-brainer to us now.

    So thank you, Jenny!

  24. MA says...

    Thank YOU! :)
    This is the best. I’m so glad I read this today. I am a big believer in thank you notes, especially for kids. Taking the time to say thank you is so important.

  25. Kjerstin says...

    I was just reading a NYTimes article in support of snail mail (“We Could All Use a Little Snail Mail Right Now” – right??), so this feels timely and gives me extra encouragement to write more cards, thank you notes, silly postcards, etc.

    My dad worked as a clerk at the USPS for about 25 years before retiring, so things like mail, stamps, the smell of the post office, and the journey mail takes to get from Point A to Point B have always held a pretty dear spot in my heart. :)

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/smarter-living/we-could-all-use-a-little-snail-mail-right-now.html

  26. This is just amazing and so wholesome.

  27. Kate says...

    Love this. Yesterday, I told the lady at the check-out at my local store that she had the most beautiful smile, which she did. It lit up the place. I’m not much of a note writer, but a small verbal thank you or compliment every day is a wonderful idea.

  28. Catherine Mouton says...

    Everything about this. Yes.

  29. I have a passion for meaningful handwritten notes. The joy felt as you write them coupled with the joy the recipient feels when reading them is powerful. It is truly a win/win. I recently launched a line of notecards to help make sending these types of heartfelt notes easy and fun. Jotted-Lines provides unique prompts that give the writer a starting line that they take to the finish with their own words.

  30. Carole says...

    The book ‘365 Thank Yous’ by John Kralik reminds me of this post. and worth an afternoon of reading.
    I love writing notes, once owned a stationery shop with the most delightful note writers as customers.
    Three lines was my advice. Start there.
    I once wrote a note to someone I hadn’t seen in a while that simply said
    ‘I loved bumping into you on the corner.’
    We all need these little handwritten connections.

  31. Love this! So sweet!

  32. Such a great idea and it’s inspiring me to do the same!

  33. Tisha says...

    What a great idea. No one doesn’t like being thanked. And who doesn’t love a little surprise note in the mail.?!

  34. Nina says...

    Over the summer I wrote a ‘thank you’ letter to one of my teachers from primary school (that’s the first school here in the UK, ages 5-11). I had realised that I think of his lessons surprisingly often even more than 25 years later, and also that he must be around 90 years old by now – so I did want to thank him, and it wasn’t one to wait around on. I found a mention of him on a music society website, and contacted them; it turned out the owner of the site is a good friend of my teacher and he offered to pass the note on, rather than asking him for permission to share his address, to maintain the element of surprise – so sweet! The whole thing was enjoyable to do and felt really worthwhile. (I got a very nice reply a couple of weeks ago, too.) Here in the UK we’re generally pretty good at saying ‘thank you’ routinely in everyday life (New Yorkers always seem really surprised by it when I’m over there!!) but the more specific and heartfelt gratitude still requires a special effort to express.

  35. Meredith Kremer says...

    it’s not handwritten but i have recently discovered the “ink” app.
    I realized that while i rarely wrote thank you cards, i did often send thank you texts with a picture ..
    so a picture of the baby in the onesie grandma sent. or a picture from that fun dinner party.

    ink is like that but you get the “text” in the mail in a postcard form with whatever picture and message you want.
    i think this is going to revolutionaize my thank you card giving!

  36. Estee says...

    I work in a call center for a credit union and with as many calls as we get the job can feel very impersonal. Years ago the company started to have employees write four cards a month. It can be congratulations on paying off your car, happy birthday or just a simple thank you for your call. It makes the job so much more enjoyable and feels like I’m actually connecting/being a part of people’s lives instead of just answering the phone.

  37. I was just thinking about starting a similar project myself after listening to the first episode of season two of Jocelyn K. Glei’s Hurry Slowly, which focused on gratitude. What a magical, thoughtful project with such a great reward, both to the recipients and to you!

  38. I absolutely love this idea! Thank you for sharing.

    My dad was recently diagnosed with leukemia (AML) and I realized I didn’t support people I cared about when they lost loved ones (or experienced serious illness, like this one) in the way they truly needed me to. For some, years or months have passed, and so the only thing I could think to do was write them each a card.

    I think the cashier thought I might have experienced something truly horrific when she saw how many cards I purchased that day. But it’s better late than never. I’ve realized through this immensely difficult time that sometimes it just feels good for someone to recognize your grief and hold space for you while you’re in it.

    Thanks again for sharing such an inspiring story. <3

  39. Amanda says...

    I still have a little tiny note card (business card size) in a tiny little envelope that I received from my first boss at my first job 20 years ago. It says “Thanks for doing a great job! Your hard work has not gone unnoticed”. Really meant something to me.

  40. Esty says...

    As someone who sucks at remembering to write thank you notes, this idea makes my heart sing. Thanks for sharing, I think I might have to give it a try myself.

  41. Sasha L says...

    Has anyone read 29 Gifts, by Cami Walker? I loved this post and it immediately made me remember this book. It’s just beautiful and a wonderful life changing idea: every day for 29 days, you give something. Could be a thank you note, could be your lunch, could be $…… Just has to be meaningful to you. It’s a method for healing, gratitude and changing your life. I’ve done it several times over the years and it’s always a wondrous experience. I think it might just be the antidote to the WORLD right now for me.

    Also, on writing letters- I’m a preschool teacher and I cut watercolor artwork that isn’t taken home into postcards and write my daughter and several friends every week. They all like getting mail, I like connecting with them and it’s a fun reuse. My students enjoy seeing their work get used too.

    • Sasha, that book is incredible! The gift of giving is so important, and that was one of the books that really helped me to connect to others when I was in a low place.

    • Kjerstin says...

      That book sounds interesting, and I love that reusing idea for artwork! I’m going to keep that one in mind :)

  42. Azure says...

    Can we take a moment to highlight the gender disparities when it comes to writing thank you notes and the guilt associated with NOT writing thank you notes? Thank you.

    • Michelle Bengson says...

      I hear ya, sista! This thought has been hitting me hard lately.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! great great point.

    • Kaitlin says...

      Yes!! This has bugged me ever since I got married!

    • Danielle says...

      Yes! I tend to be a thank you note writer anyway but it bothers me when it’s expected in a perfunctory way. Like my mom will say, “Oh your aunt’s been upset because you haven’t sent a thank you note yet”. This seems contrary to the spirit of gratitude and giving.

  43. Chelsea says...

    I love this! It reminds me of my sweet grandfather. Most people only speak to managers at restaurants and other businesses if they have a complaint, but my grandfather would always tell our server (or other employees) what an excellent job they did and ask to speak to the manager to compliment the staff. I always imagined these people must have loved receiving positive feedback rather than just negativity!

    • Beth says...

      This is so lovely. I once received the warmest, most sincere, slightly over the top but in a good way from an older man when I was working in a restaurant. It meant so much to me that I still remember it fondly over 10 years later!

  44. I was brainstorming cards of thankfulness ideas for November when a long forgotten song by Shannon Wright came up in my itunes shuffle. It was her song “Dragonfly” and one of the main lyrics repeated is “you gave me courage”. I realized I have a list of people in my life that have inspired me and given me courage for various things in my life and what a wonderful thing to thank them for. I also have a tradition now of gifting my husband a pack of 12 cards of love and thankfulness on Christmas with a card to open each of the 12 days of Christmas. 12 cards of thankfulness for 12 days of Christmas.

  45. Renee says...

    I love the idea of thank you notes, but am not amazing at sending them in a timely manner–especially when they’re generic notes thanking a relative for a gift. I still send handwritten notes for some things, but have switched to sending relatives a text/message instead, paired with a picture of my child unwrapping/enjoying the present. They live far away, and are often thrilled to see their present loved and being put to good use!

  46. Dee says...

    oh my gosh I just had this exact discussion with a colleague of mine. We were discussing how the written note is a thing of the past. I think this is such a brilliant idea! Just think how uplifting it would be to receive a sweet unexpected note in the mail. And kindness inspires kindness so I think people would pass it on.

  47. Katie says...

    Sign me up. Two weeks ago I started standing at my classroom door and sincerely, cheerfully greeting every kid, every period, by name because I was feeling so helpless/enraged/frustrated by current events and realized I needed to change things up SOMEWHERE or else I might become a real grouch. It’s helped. I think this thank-you project would be a great next step. I’m sending a thank you note to Sen. Jeff Flake for trying. I appreciated his humanity in (finally) listening to the protesters, even though it didn’t go my way – it was so encouraging to see some heart in Congress, if for a moment.

    • Starla says...

      @ my son’s public Walforf school, the teacher greets each child in the morning with a hand shake & hello before they step through the classroom door. I love it.

    • cgw says...

      I do something similar, but at the end of the class I make sure to send each one off with a wish to have a good day, or next class, good luck on an upcoming test, or have a nice weekend.
      Teachers Unite!

    • Sasha L says...

      Katie, thank you. I bet that makes such a difference for your students each day. I’m in the same place, feeling frustrated and wanting to do what I can in my own life to spread kindness and goodness.

  48. Marta says...

    Small everyday thank you notes are also called “bread and butter” notes.

  49. I love this whole idea so much.
    Jenny, thank you for your books — all of them mean a lot to me, and I think of them almost every day as we try to do family dinner with a five and one year old.
    Joanna, thank you for this wonderful blog that both gives great outfit ideas AND brings an amazing community of women together.
    I probably won’t end up actually hand-writing thank you notes, but I’d love to try to the challenge to thank at least one person per day, either in person, over text/email (or in the comments section of a blog.) xoxo

  50. This is beautiful. Per usual the post feels serendipitous. As I was driving to work this morning, listening to a podcast about the news, and despairing at the state of our world, I started hatching a plan for a monthly dinner with friends over soup and thank you note writing. First on my list is Dr. Ford. It is so easy to get weighted down by rage and helplessness, and I want to find a way to move forward with tangible acts of love.

    • Saba, absolutely love “I want to find a way to move forward with tangible acts of love.” We’d love to help support your effort with some of our stationery. Please feel free to reach out, ofnotestationers@gmail.com — we believe wholeheartedly in the power of letter writing to deepen connections with vulnerability and care.

  51. Megan says...

    OH. MY. GAWD. I love this idea! Amazing. Gonna make an effort to do some version on this. I love it!

  52. What a wonderful idea – I love this!

    Rebecca

  53. Liz says...

    I send thank you notes for everything I can think of, which has led me to sending cards for lots of other occasions as well. This year I sent out Mother’s Day cards to everyone I could think of, including my sister and sister-in-law who consider them dog moms. Both expressed how much it meant to them to be thought of that way.
    And as far as snail mail goes, I’ve had a pen pal for the past 24 years, so I was thrilled when both my daughter and my son decided to acquire pen pals as well. It’s so sweet to watch them run to check the mail every day just in case something is there for them.

  54. Chris says...

    Thank you notes bring back a flood of memories for me. When my mom was diagnosed with a terminal disease a few years ago, I didn’t know what to get her that following Christmas. For the next two holidays we shared before she died, I wrote her thank you notes as presents. I thanked her for everything from her stain-fighting tips and sharing her love of Thanksgiving with me to showing how powerful and simple an act of kindness is when helping others. I also thanked her for making me write thank you notes! I read four of the thank you notes to our family and friends in my eulogy for her at her funeral service. Gratitude is powerful, and I’m so glad I expressed those sentiments to her before she was gone.

    • Chelsea says...

      This is lovely, Chris. I am sure those thank you notes were so meaningful to your mom. My father-in-law died last spring after battling pancreatic cancer for 6 months. I wrote a thank you letter to him for raising such an incredible son and being a wonderful father-in-law, and did the same for my mother-in-law. It helped me work through my grief knowing my time with him was short and allowed me the opportunity to let him know all of those good things you don’t always tell people but should.

    • Julie says...

      Chris, I am so sorry for your loss. I honestly think this is the most beautiful expression of gratitude I’ve ever heard of. Teary! Having lost my gorgeous Mum (I’m Australian and we spell it differently here) a few years ago I can truly appreciate how difficult it must have been for you to write those notes of gratitude, knowing what was to come. You gave your Mom the kindest send off imaginable and I’m certain your gratitude and love for her had a lasting imprint as she quietly reflected on her life. She would have been so very touched and proud to have known her journey of Motherhood was so dearly appreciated by you. I really wish I had done something similar for my Mum.

  55. Jenny says...

    Jenny, this seems like the perfect time to thank you for your delicious and amazingly simple greek lemon chicken soup recipe! I have made it many times, for family and friends, and it is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. Thank you for making me look like I can cook even when I feel like i can’t.
    Love from another Jenny

    • Emily says...

      I discovered that soup recently and it’s already on regular rotation. Sad? Have the lemon chicken soup. Cold? Soup time! Nothing in the cupboard? Get out that old orzo you mysteriously have despite NEVER cooking orzo in your life and save those sad lemons from a long death on the counter.

  56. Allison says...

    exactly what the world needs more of. also, i refuse to let snail mail complete die off. she’s inspired me to commit to 1 a week!

  57. C says...

    See now this is a good use of thank you notes. I’ve always been anti- thank you note because we only ever write them after occasions like weddings and baby showers, where you get lots of gifts and have so many to write. They are a hassle and I always tell people not to send me one because I don’t want my gift to be the source of any stress. But people almost never send them for reasons that actually call for a genuine heartfelt thanks—the little things that make life easier and memorable and that keep us going in ways that towels from a registry or another swaddle blanket don’t even come close to reaching. A few years ago I sent a bunch of thank you notes one random day to a dozen friends. They all said the same thing, “thank you for being my friend.” It felt great to send them and to imagine each friend opening that piece of mail.

  58. NN says...

    Love, love, love this!! As a new mother, I am FULL of gratitude and want to try this. <3

    (Might want to change the header on this, tho – I immediately thought of death and greiving, since it's also the title of Didion's book. Which is excellent, btw!!)

  59. this makes me think of that daily thxthxthx blog from a long time ago, which is now a book: http://thxthxthx.com/

    i did a search for the site but it doesn’t look to be in existence anymore, which is a bummer. found images of the short thank you notes though. found here

    • Meg says...

      I too loved loved loved thxthxthx!! I really appreciated the earnestness of the notes, whether to a human or eyelids.

    • Natalie says...

      Was about to post the same thing! Her blog inspired me to start writing them too, years ago – sometimes to people, often to inanimate objects. She isn’t very active on twitter anymore but her feed still has some good notes up: https://twitter.com/ttthhhxxx?lang=en

  60. Jessica says...

    I love this so much. I’ve been trying to practice gratitude more in my life, especially for ordinary, everyday things. But I’ve really gotten out of the habit of writing thank you notes. Reading Jenny’s essay and learning of Gina’s project reminded me of the last thank you note I really remember writing for something other than a gift I’ve received: a few years ago my beloved dog and longtime companion had to be put down. The vet tech on duty that day offered both of us so much grace, compassion, gentleness, and kindness that I was moved to send her a thank you note a few days later. To this day, I still get moved to tears when I think of her. I will be so grateful for her kindness for the rest of my life. It’s incredible to think how people’s everyday, ordinary, small acts of kindness can leave such an impression on us. After all, she was just doing her job, and one she’s probably done many times. But the way she did that job made all the difference to me on one of the hardest days of my life.

  61. LaTonya says...

    I love this so much! Thank you notes have surprised (and sustained me) so many times. So lovely to read.

  62. Meghan says...

    I’m halfway through a “mail something every week for a year” mission. It’s been lovely – I mostly send cards and postcards. but I sent pickles and received peach jam in return. It is nice to take the time to say hello or thank you to friends and family. It’s also a great excuse to visit my favourite stationery store – I think they thought I was crazy with my last haul of cards!

    • Nancey says...

      THIS!

  63. KL says...

    I once read that you should never lead with the words “Thank you for…” in your thank you notes. Instead, you should relay your appreciation through description of how the gift (gesture, etc.) made you feel. I try to think of that every time I write a thank you note, and I will say, they feel so much more personal and genuine. (Example, instead of “Thank you for the baby clothes you sent, they are so adorable”, try “Seeing Eleanor in the pink onesie you sent made my heart melt. The ruffles on the bum make her tiny, perfect little baby bum a little more perfect. How kind of you to think of her and send it.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh wow, that’s so interesting, and i LOVE your example. thanks for sharing!

    • I LOVE this! I feel like I can always take notes on how to write notes, and this was perfect.

    • Emma says...

      Hmm. Sounds like good advice to me as an adult, but as a kid it really helped to have “Thank you…” as a starting place! My parents drilled in the mandatory thank you card writing, and although I was often writing thank you cards for things I didn’t particularly want from relatives I barely knew and rarely saw, I think it was a good exercise in trying to find gratitude when it isn’t automatic. Even if you start the sentence with “thank you for” you can still use a lot of sensory/feelings details (instead of just describing the thing you got, or the thing someone did for you).

  64. MariaE. says...

    I love them. I am a huge fan of thank-you notes!! I love writing them and I love receiving them. I keep most of them and I go back to them every time I need to cheer myself up!!!

  65. Claire says...

    I did a smaller version of this while I was doing 30 different things the year I was 30. I wrote 30 thank you notes, and felt great about all of them. I got a response for one, to a woman who started me on my career path when I was in middle school by indulging a nerdy kid’s questions, which was great. I had a quotation at the top of my list of people to thank:
    “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” -William Arthur Ward

  66. Lynn says...

    I’m a big fan of thank you notes, primarily because I love receiving any personal mail and assume others do too. I print wallet sized photos at Walgreens and often include a photo of whatever is relevant to the thank you. I love using cool stamps (there are SO MANY cool stamps). I never pass up a sale on blank card sets, and Target has inexpensive card sets (~$4 for 12). Now if only I would organize my non-existent address book…

    • I bought a Kate Spade address book, and it’s a game changer. I find it’s more comforting to go back to traditional on that one, instead of an online address book :)

  67. I love this whole thing. A couple weeks ago, I sent texts (not quite as nice as a note, but still) to a few friends who really mean a lot to me but with whom I don’t talk to or even see as much as I’d like to. It was on a Friday morning, and I just wanted to thank them for being great friends and how grateful I was to have them in my life. I hope it made them feel good, but it also made me feel good, too! You can’t lose with a sincere thank you.
    (I also make a regular practice of thanking service people for what they do when they do it well, and they are often surprised but grin ear to ear. I love that.)

    • so nice, Amy. I bet you made your friends’ day.

  68. I love this. How inspiring and what a powerful reminder of how much goodness there is around us if we only take the (brief) time to see it. xox

  69. Emma says...

    I love Jenny! I gave her book Celebrate Everything to my sister for Christmas after she had her first baby. Also, a riff on her Tomato and White Bean soup is in my weekly rotation in the colder months.

    On the topic of thank you notes, at 28 I’m in the thick of “wedding season,” and have started writing thank you notes to the hosts after each celebration. Often it’s the parents of the bride or groom, or the bride and groom themselves. After my own wedding I realized how much time, energy, and love (and money!) goes into planning those days, and I love the chance to recognize that and tell them how they were all glowing.

  70. Daynya says...

    Team “pro” thank you note, here. I work for an engraved stationery company that has been around for nearly 100 years. Part of what I have learned here is that the thought that goes into a written expression of gratitude transcends the sentiment of simply saying “thanks” (not that we shouldn’t simply say “thanks” at the appropriate times). It’s an act of care to take time out of your day, put your feelings on paper, and send that little surprise off to someone else in the world. People often feel that handwritten notes are outdated, but I feel quite the opposite. Now, more than ever, I feel it is so meaningful to go that extra mile to connect.

    Just in case anyone needs beautiful stationery to facilitate their note-writing, here is our website: https://arzbergerstationers.com/

    • Caro says...

      These are beautiful, indeed! I love the idea of handwritten letters and cards. Just the other day I posted a postcard my daughter wrote to a classmate. It would have been so much easier to drop it off at her place, close to school, but I totally get the joy involved receiving a letter in your mail!

  71. Robin says...

    I received a hand-written thank you note on a beautiful card for a guest lecture I did for a colleague. After that, I went out and bought a pack of cards to do this myself. I am going to a conference later this month and am writing cards to give to folks that have contributed to a project I am working on. Although they were thanked via email, this just feels right. It’s so much more gracious.

  72. Cailin says...

    This is so beautiful! Yesterday I received a thank you note in the mail from a good friend of mine whose father was recently diagnosed with cancer. I had completely forgotten that I’d donated to his GoFundMe campaign, and the note was unexpected. It included a printed note from her dad, as well, thanking all those who had given. He wrote, among other things, “I hear a lot about how bad the world is right now, but from where I sit there is a lot of good too.” It was a beautiful reminder to practice gratitude, always.

  73. Marcella says...

    Love this. Recently at work I was tasked with writing thank-you notes to speakers who came to our conference and my coworkers were like are you cool with that? And I was like yes, my mom trained me for this. As a kid we had to write thank-you notes for every birthday and Christmas gift and she prided on the fact that we were the only grandkids who did that! Ha.

  74. Sarah T. says...

    For anyone looking for inspiration re how to phrase a thank you note, I recommend google image searching “presidential thank you notes.” You can page through notes written and received by american presidents. Very cool lesson in writing and history.

  75. Mary says...

    From someone who just got married and got pregnant soon after, I find the sentiment of this piece nice, but for me, writing handwritten thank you notes is such a chore. It’s so time-consuming and expensive. And I don’t really feel all that much when I receive them, either. You spend money and time writing them, people open them, read them, then throw them away. OR you feel obligated to keep them and they add to your clutter. I don’t do things for people or gives gifts to get thank you notes, I do it for the pleasure of doing it. I just spent an entire weekend writing thank you notes (plus a bunch of money on cards and stamps), when I’d really have rather been doing so many other things. If it were considered polite, I’d dispense with them altogether and just say thank you in person or over a phone call, but I think I’d severely offend some people (mostly older relatives) if I did. So I do it begrudgingly. Just in case anyone else out there is team “can we please do away with this unnecessary custom” and wants to start a revolution, I’m all in!

    • cgw says...

      This comment is so interesting to me, thanks for sharing your perspective. I am a “snail mail thank youer”. I love to receive and send them, especially in this day and age where folks don’t even email as much as they text “thanks”. I even enjoy making the cards I send out to say thank you and never wonder what people do with it after. I simply don’t care if they keep or toss, there’s no obligation to keeping it. But I just want the person to know how much I appreciated the sentiment or thing I was thanking for. In the past I used to labor over what to write. But strangely, I’ve learned from my daughter (when she was much younger) that the best and most earnest are usually also the short sweet ones. So now I know to keep it short and sweet, no more than about three lines is all it takes to let someone know they made your day, which in turn makes their day… and everyone is a little happier.

    • Jaclyn says...

      I think that’s why this “challenge” was so special – Gina wasn’t doing the customary/expected thank you notes but instead thanking folks for things they probably don’t get recognized for.

      I completely agree with you on the chore of certain thank you notes and when I get a note from a kids birthday or a generic wedding thank you Its not all that special but when someone sends me an out-of-the-blue note to let me know that they thought of me and appreciated me or something I have done – I feel so special!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      @ jaclyn, yes, it’s so interesting, gina’s project makes me think of all the people who i’m so deeply grateful to in my life, but who might not even know. like my high-school english teacher who got me into writing, my old neighbor who was so kind to me when i had postpartum depression and was a shell of myself, etc. and there are also people who know but might not REALLY know, like my parents — i’d love to thank them for lots of specific things through the years, big and small, but we don’t end up talking about them in everyday conversation. so a real thank you note out of nowhere might be really nice.

      @ mary, congratulations on your baby news! and during pregnancy and new parenthood, i think people should get a pass from thank-you notes. my friend sari sent us a baby gift when toby was born and wrote on the card: “PLEASE DO NOT WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE, just go and enjoy your baby!” and i thought that was such a gift in itself!!! :)

    • Nina says...

      I’m a sender of ‘thank you’ notes myself, but with new parents I don’t expect them to have the time. The only thing is, if I’ve sent a gift in the post I’d just like to know it got there – a text would be plenty. And I think a begrudging ‘thank you’ note is bad vibes all round! If the gratitude’s not real, that probably comes across.

    • Mary says...

      Oh the gratitude is real! I just don’t get why you open a gift in front of someone, say thanks, then also write a note to say thanks. And yes I like this idea of doing it unexpectedly, it’s just when you have a big family like I do and have to write over and over, “thanks for the check!” that I find it a chore. I am grateful and I don’t want to offend people, so I do it. But as a frequent gift giver in my large family, I don’t get offended if someone doesn’t bother to send me a note. I just think we all have better ways to spend our time. It’s nice some people don’t expect thank yous from new parents, but I can’t not send baby shower thank yous, my mom would be so pissed and never let it go!

  76. Alexan B. says...

    Absolutely love this idea. Excited to start implementing more “thank you” practices in my daily routine.

  77. Lauren Nathan Dodge says...

    Jenny Rosenstrach! I always love seeing your name pop up here. Here’s hoping that this will help motivate me to write my 10,000 outstanding thank you notes. Hope you are well. xo

    • Andie says...

      I’m a big fan of Jenny’s too. Jenny and cup of jo are two perfect worlds colliding.

  78. Hayley says...

    This is beautiful. Thank you for passing along this practice, Jenny. And, perhaps as my first thank-you-act, let me thank you for your book “How to Celebrate Everything.” I read it on maternity leave, while nursing my sweet little daughter, and it was so inspiring . I come from a divorced family and alcoholic mother and had very few traditions growing up. Your book inspired me to be more intentional about creating my own for my children–and taught me that even the most routine acts can become celebrated rituals, with just a little heart. Sending love and gratitude your way.

  79. I love this! Yesterday I was talking about gratitude with my sister, who is a high school teacher. She was working on a lesson plan about gratitude and looking for celebrity quotes about it. Guess what? She found zero. (Well, except for Oprah!) But then I remembered I saw Terry Crews on Jimmy Fallon a while back, talking about how gratitude gives him his amazing amount energy. It’s a fun clip–now she’s going to show it to her high schoolers!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iux7NZ56Ei4

    • elaine says...

      I belong to an online gratitude group. it is called Grace in Small Things. We are invited to share/ give thanks 5 for things that touch you in small or large ways on a daily/wkly or whenever you show up basis. I wrote 1000 entries over 3 years. I thought of it as A Thousand Days of Grace. The practice was and is life changing. Gratitude changes the heart, the mind, perception , health. relationships etc.

    • Meghan says...

      I’m a high school teacher and found this lesson idea a couple years ago. It’s awesome and the kids who take on the optional “call the person and tell them how you feel” during our class period come back with the BEST look on their faces!!

      http://www.imthatteacher.com/thanksgiving/

    • wendy says...

      Opening my morning high school drama class with this video today thanks to you!!

  80. AG says...

    Beautiful.

  81. Ruth says...

    Love this idea. And love that Jenny is becoming a regular contributor here!

  82. Lauren says...

    I love this idea – busy with work and two kids and travel, I sometimes delay sending a thank-you note, and then later feel like it’s “too late..” Like by sending one late, I’m sort of ad hoc admitting that it wasn’t important enough to me to send one immediately. Then I won’t send one at all. And then I feel anxiety and guilt…. terrible spiral! This project reminds me that it is never too late to express your appreciation and gratitude, and I’m going to dig out my stationery when I get home and write some (overdue) thank you’s! So… thank you for this post!

    • Amy says...

      Lauren…are we twins? I get so frustrated with myself. I have the same circular thoughts about why/why not to write thank you’s.

    • Savannah says...

      I feel that anxiety about sympathy cards! Then I think about the losses in my life- I want an acknowledgement every day that other people also remember them and that helps me send off the card or note or flowers without guilt even years later when I think of someone. I think it’s the same with a sincere thank you.

    • MM says...

      Agreed. Never too late to send a short note (for gratitude, for bereavement, or just to connect). Plus, maybe it’s even more meaningful to have a card pop through the mail much later after the initial rush of condolences or well after an expected timeframe, like the year-long window after a shower/wedding/graduation or special party. It is easy to fall into the “too late” trap, but so fast and easy to remedy!

  83. Anne says...

    I love this! My husband and I have started writing thank you notes for our wedding and we’ve been doing one a night for the past week. I love the ritual and would love to continue it beyond this context. Such a sweet idea, thanks for sharing!

  84. I returned from Japan this morning (2:00 a.m.!) after spending six weeks there. I planned it needing a chance to overwhelm myself again, in a positive and non-American-depressing way. People were so incredibly kind, that it was overwhelming; I cried a lot. I was welcomed to stay with a friend’s parents who spoke no English (but we laughed/I apologized through it). Leaving to the airport, this wonderful women approached me on the subway and told me that I was brave. It meant the world to me, because it feels tough much of the time. As a shy person, it reminded me to reach out, to connect (even one word at a time), and keep doing it. (P.S. I am a big fan of Dinner: A Love Story).

    • cgw says...

      I spent 12 days in Japan this summer, reentry was tough. Seriously tough. I loved my time there.

  85. I absolutely love writing thank you notes. The importance of connecting with people on a deeper level is my motivation. I can text and use fun emojis, sure, but can I dig deep and grasp the words that really describe how I am feeling? Now that is a skill. This is a beautiful project.