Tag Archives: thank you note

Writing letters to strangers

Strangers are friends

Sending and receiving letters and cards is fun. There’s something special about holding the card instead of viewing an email or text. They make me smile. If I got a random letter from a stranger, I think I’d be happy. It reminds me of pen pals from when I was little.

I love making people happy. So, when Christine Barba from Project Light to Life (who did an interview on this site, check it out) wrote about anonymously mailing letters of encouragement to strangers, I got really excited and added “Send a letter to a stranger” to my own list.

Find out what I did

Goal Accomplished! Write 100 Thank You Notes in 100 Days (2014)

thank you pink flower tree card

Photo Credit: AForestFrolic (stampinmom) on Flickr
Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
–Henry Ward Beecher

First, thank you to everyone who supported me in achieving this goal. Your encouragement and kind words were much appreciated.

This post is a general reflection of the goal and how it went, as well as an attempt to answer some of the questions that came up during the 100 days, for those of you who are considering doing this project on your own.

There were many expectations that I had for myself and for this goal when I started out, most of which didn’t turn out like I thought they would.

I thought I’d write 1 thank you note each day. What I actually did was write an average of 1 per day (1 at first, then none for a few days, then 5 the next day, etc).

Number of notes written during the 100 days

I thought it would “give me motivation and structure to be more intentional about expressing gratitude” – This one happened, just by the nature of the goal. I am slightly surprised that I finished this goal, and even went 2 notes over goal in less than 100 days. Sometimes I get really excited about starting projects but don’t always finish them unless I have a deadline, which I did in this case, but 100 days seemed like a really long time/really far away (I know, it’s all perspective, 100 days isn’t really that long, but it felt that way at first, until I realized I only had 16 days left, and then it felt really fast!).

I thought I would suddenly become a more grateful person – It seems funny to think about now, but there really was a part of me that thought that by the end of 100 days, I would have this gratitude thing completely figured out. Silly me. There is no magical shortcut or special project that can hasten the process, but I still think the practice was good for me.

I thought this would be a one-way project, where I wrote cards to people, and then… that was it. Instead, I ended up getting many notes in return, which cheered me up and allowed me to be the recipient of other people’s gratitude. This made me realize graciously accepting gratitude takes more humility than sharing my gratitude with someone else.

I worried people wouldn’t think I was sincere if they found out about the goal, or that I wouldn’t feel sincere writing the notes because of the goal. This was a concern brought up by a few people when I told them about the goal, and that came to mind several times during these 100 days. I decided not to tell the people I was writing to, unless they asked about it, because I wanted to make sure that as much as possible this issue didn’t come up. Whenever it did come up, whether in my mind or in conversation, the important thing for me to remember was that I needed to write what I would have written regardless of whether I was doing it for this goal list item or as an individual thank you note. The 100 thank you notes wasn’t just a goal to meet, it was a prompt to be more grateful. It’s not insincere to write a card even if a gratitude project inspired it, unless you don’t mean it and you’re just writing it to meet a quota.

Another issue that came up was how to thank people in a way that they would be sure to get the note. I decided that as much as possible, I would send real mail to people (cards, letters, postcards, etc) because it’s fun to get mail. For the people I see on a regular basis, I tried to hand-deliver. For people I was unable to reach by any other written form of communication, I wrote in a journal (for example, I wrote a thank you to God, but this would also work for those who have passed away). Many people I sent notes to I communicate mostly through email, LinkedIn, or Facebook, so those are the methods I used to write their thank you notes. Website contact forms were used for organizations that didn’t list an email or have a mailing address.

Types of thank you notes written

When I started this goal, I thought it would be easy to think of 100 people/organizations to write to, but the day I started planning who to write to, I only could think of about 40 (I quickly filled in the rest, and then realized there were still more people to thank after the 100). I also wanted to make sure that I sent groups of people their thank you notes at the same time, so that no one in the group felt left out, so I saved them after I wrote them until I had one for everyone in the group. For example, everyone at work got their card on the same day, or as close to it as I could.

I’m glad that I did this goal when I did. It helped me get in touch with friends I hadn’t talked with in a while, reminded me to notice things I was grateful for, and helped me express and receive gratitude. I would recommend a project like this to everyone.

If you want more info, you can:

Resource:
How to Be Thankful and Improve Your Life, an article by David Hochman from a 2009 Reader’s Digest issue. David shares his experience with his Month of Gratitude project, as well as tips about expressing gratitude from experts he interviewed, including this tip relevant to projects like the one I did: “‘If you overdo gratitude, it loses its meaning or, worse, becomes a chore,’ Martin E. P. Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness, told me when I mentioned my slump. Be selective, he advised, and focus on thanking the unsung heroes in your life.”

Other Info:
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Progress Update #2: Write 100 Thank You Notes in 100 Days

Gratitude Card Set 6 - Photo credit Fern R on Flickr, used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 License

Photo Credit: Fern R on Flickr
Used unmodified under CC Attribution license

“I think that 99% of people FORGET the effect that they can have on people with just a simple show of gratitude”
Daniel DiPiazza, IM conversation 5/25/14

When I started this list item, I was thinking about myself. This goal was going to miraculously fix my ungrateful, complaining attitude. I would become a grateful person. I would know that I shared my grateful thoughts with people who matter to me, to prevent me from feeling guilty in case something bad happened to any of them. I would single-handedly save the US Post Office from bankruptcy. Just kidding. But I have mailed a lot of cards.

All that doesn’t mean that my words and feelings that I sent to people were lies. I meant every word, and I still do. I also still think it’s important to tell people the good things you think about them, especially considering we don’t know when things are going to happen, and we really don’t give enough positive feedback to the people who matter to us.

I knew that sharing those words would probably make other people feel good, but I didn’t expect to receive the feedback I did. Some people sent cards back to me. Their responses came when I was having bad days and cheered me up. They came when I was having good days and made them better. Even just a simple “thanks for the card” text makes me feel good because words make a difference. And that was the story everyone was telling me too: my grateful words made a difference in their day.

This goal has also helped me reconnect with friends who I haven’t talked to in a while, and it’s been very fun to get to know what’s happening in their lives and to hear about their current joys and struggles, and to share mine, so we can go through them together. The thank you notes have started conversations of gratitude, and I have to admit, sometimes it’s difficult to allow myself to accept thank you’s in return. Accepting gratitude takes humility.

I am grateful for the effect that other people’s gratitude has had on my life during this time, and I’m looking forward to the remaining 8 days. I can’t wait to see the impact they will have!

Click to read: final reflection on this goal, progress update #1, or the initial post about this goal.

Resource (3 minute TED talk):

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