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Handwritten thank-you's lift both writer, recipient
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Handwritten thank-you's lift both writer, recipient. - photo by Joseph Cramer, MD
To construct a brand-sparkling-new skyscraper, builders demolish the existing structure. Sometimes, it is only after the edifice is a pile of rubble that someone steps forward and says that it was a palace.

Technology is the new skyscraper; a handwritten letter is the palace. Email is the smashing ball. A handwritten thank-you note is the discarded debris.

There is no question that email is a communication tool that is indispensable in the hustling, complex world. Convenience is its gift to human kind. One click on the return arrow, and you dont have to look up a persons name. For the spelling-challenged, one doesnt have to remember if your childhood friends name is Nelson or Nielsen. Anderson is Andersen, and Kramer is not Cramer.

With the same reply key, a person skips addresses, zip codes, city, state or country. Does your best friend still live in Chicago, or did he move to Sydney? With email, it doesnt matter. The Internet will somehow magically find his electronic inbox. He or she could be on the other side of the world, but to the sender, he or she could be next door.

With email, there is not the bother of sticky stamps, undersized envelopes or even the walk to the mailbox across the street. Gone is the question, What is the price of stamps these days? The forever stamps are nice, and we will miss the pretty pictures or some figure of history, but progress is progress. Besides, one gets to use all of their 10 digits to tap out words at speeds unheard of with a pen and ink.

Another burden is the deficiency of a good electronic spell checker. It is true pen and paper have a spell checker. It is called a dictionary. The trouble is, if one were to misspell a word and not realize the mistake, the reader easily thinks the writer is a village moron. There is no red line underscoring the blunder. One has to write a practice letter to write a letter. Otherwise, cross-outs and scribbles fill half the page.

All of these reasons make the handwritten thank-you note that much more exalted. Compared to a swift texted message, an email or even a quick phone call, sitting down to write is a gift of time to the recipient.

Time is the commodity most often in low supply these days. Our personal storehouses are empty. Therefore, for someone to gift the minutes can be more meaningful than the thoughts on the page.

Writing and sending cards of gratitude benefit the sender as much as the recipient. Sharing gratefulness reinforces the feeling of joy that prompted the note in the first place. Something biologically positive happens when we put our emotions of thanksgiving on paper to share with someone we love. We can express thanks in a journal that no one will read. It is the gratefulness and sharing combo that alters the brain for good.

Sadly, the teachings of Emily Post and Miss Manners are being buried along with the mansion of letter writing. For some, etiquette is a dusty remnant of the bourgeoisie. Expectations have changed. Things just happen like in the movies. Everyone forgets the effort it took. We look around and only see ourselves, and dont notice anyone to thank.

However, there is hope. Most parents teach their children to use your nice words. Please and thank you are part of the first additions the mother or the father will make to a childs vocabulary. Thank-you notes are using your nice words in writing.

What deserves a handwritten thank-you note? That is a sliding scale. Sometimes the simplest act deserves a note because of its emotional impact, not because of the degree of effort.

Go find a pen. Grab some paper. Find the address. Buy the stamps. Write the note. Put it in an envelope. Mail it.

You dodged the wrecking ball.
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