A Proposed Change to Thank You Note Etiquette
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Adina Bailey, Co-Founder, TakeThemAMeal.com on Jul 2, 2014
I have received several complaint emails on the topic of "thank you notes" from people who have taken a meal through one of our meal schedules. Those who have written are offended because they never received a thank you note for the meal they prepared. More than once, I have been encouraged to tell meal recipients through our site that they should write a thank you note when receiving a meal.
This prompted me to do some research into the general consensus on this topic by etiquette professionals. I discovered that the assumption is that thank you notes should be sent on the following occasions:
- Shower gifts
- Wedding gifts
- Congratulatory gifts or cards
- Gifts received during an illness
- Condolence notes or gifts
I propose that in the situations of illness, sympathy and welcoming a new baby that the expectation of a thank you note be reconsidered.
Everyone deals with suffering and difficult life circumstances in different ways. Some people find healing by writing thank you notes to people who have helped them along the way, but for others, writing brings back the pain. Some people may want to send a note, but it may take 6-12 months until they feel up for the task. Others might send a quick text or email, and others may never write. There should be freedom during life's most difficult times not to write a thank you note. In many situations where is meal is a helpful gift, there may also be many other serious priorities that need attention.
Emily Post states that "the important point is to be sure the gift is acknowledged in a timely fashion, not create a burden for the person who is ill or recovering." Those statements seem contradictory and create undue pressure for the affected family.
Taking a meal or providing care in some other way is an act of love. When someone is grieving, recovering from surgery, or living through sleepless nights with a new baby, I guarantee that your thoughtfulness is appreciated whether or not you hear from them by mailbox or inbox.
In fact, not hearing from a friend after caring for them during a difficult time may indicate a need to follow up to see if you can help in another specific way like taking an additional meal.
Meals are greatly appreciated during life's times of deep pain, grief, and joy. We take meals because someone is experiencing a circumstance so challenging that preparing a meal is an overwhelming task. Receiving a thank you note is wonderful, but not receiving one does not indicate a lack of gratefulness by the recipient. Instead, your kindness was delivered at a time when it was needed the most.
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