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Thanks (for Thanking Me) - A Commentary

By Rawlins Gilliland, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – It's funny about manners. What isn't funny is how manners that were once seen as routine are now more rare than steak tartar. Yesterday, a person actually thanked me for sending her a 'thank you' note. Considering that she had shared her professional knowledge and given me her time, could I have done less? Apparently, yes, if today's prevailing blas presumption is any indication.

Recently, I prepared a seated dinner in my home. Of my five guests, all of whom see themselves as sophisticated professionals, only one offered a host gift. In truth, I expected nothing. But what I should expect is the courtesy many of us grew up recognizing - taking some thing to the hosts. This can be wine, flowers, anything that, in effect, says, "I appreciate the time (yes, that same word - time), money (yep) and effort (you bet!) you have spent. Thanks for thinking to include me."

Following these occasions, hand-written 'thank you' notes say a great deal - to the host, and about us as individuals. I received one. Even by e-mail, which should be more for casual forms of 'thanks,' like, "that was fun last night, watching a movie, sharing a pizza." There too, only one. A phone call? Nope. Where are people's minds? Answer - on themselves. What are people thinking? Answer - about themselves.

Frankly, I'm convinced that many of us are far less busy than we like to believe we are. What conceit eclipses a guest believing that they are, in effect, busier than their host? They MUST feel that way, since they have time to be a guest, but cannot take time to communicate after the fact in a personal manner, if at all. In the card game of life, "Thank You" seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

In any arena, people deserve to feel appreciated and to have their efforts recognized. My former corporate boss used to comment how the then CEO took the time to write notes to her, in praising the business gains or to acknowledge some personal event in her life. This so impressed her, that she adopted the practice. Her feeling translated that, no matter how highly placed and busy people are, they should prioritize the personal touch.

Years later, this same woman was promoted, and herself became the President/CEO. Repeatedly, I hear from rank and file managers and support people, how they cannot believe they have received a personal written note from her, the President. I hope these recipients realize that they can make a similar impact on others, if they take the time and make the effort.

As pleased as I was to be told that the 'thank you' note I had sent that woman had "made her day," I would prefer to believe that kind, gracious or merely helpful and supportive acts from anyone, whether business or social, are so obviously deserving of a reciprocal salute, that this phenomenon - of thanking someone for their "Thank You" note - should become as anachronistic as wearing an inflatable life vest on a desert hike.

Thanks for listening.


Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas and a former National Endowment poet. If you have opinions about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338.