I’m inspired by your commitment to personal notes—really a lost art.
There is something very unique and special about noticing and appreciating those in our lives..It was a thrill to receive your handwritten note.
WOW, I just got a wonderful letter from you!! Thank you for the thank you!! It is letters like yours that make it all worthwhile.
These were just a few comments I received during my journey in May 2012 to handwrite a note card or letter every day for one year. I was reminded of my personal challenge earlier this month as I took pen to paper while sitting at my desk composing note cards to new professional colleagues I had recently met and a fellow staff member I had not seen in years.
In my original project, I was inspired by the book, “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.” The book is by John Kralik. At the time he was an overweight lawyer with a failing firm, who had been twice divorced, and had no relationship with his grown children. In the book he described his goal of writing 365 thank you cards in a one-year period as a way to change his rather downtrodden life. By examining what he had to be thankful for—no matter how big or small—he hoped to transform his outlook on life and, possibly, change for the better. The process to achieve this goal was through the writing of thank you cards. [Spoiler alert: he did turn his life totally around.]
Fortunately, my life was not in pieces, but my interest was piqued about his goal. So on May 25, 2012 I began my dual quest to handwrite a piece of correspondence every day for a whole calendar year and to blog about my exploits. My target audience? Anyone and everyone–family members, colleagues, friends, complete strangers, even the lady who serves me at the local bagel store. Some people I had not communicated with in years. In my first blog post I quoted one of the reasons for Kralik’s project, ”a handwritten note just feels like sincere gratitude. It conveys your physical presence to the receiver. You are right there, not far away…” Much of the feedback I received echoed this view. People would contact me via card, letter, email, and even phone and tell me, rather proudly, how the piece of correspondence would be sitting right on their desk. To this day, over two years later, individuals still bring up the card or letter I wrote to them.
At the end of one-year I learned many things about myself, the process of writing and, mostly, the importance of the handwritten card or letter. In my original blog I titled one of my final posts “10 Things I Learned From Composing Handwritten Notes,” but for this column I have condensed the list to five points.
- People really, really appreciate receiving a handwritten card or letter. I received dozens of thank yous over the twelve month period I mailed notes to individuals. The key word is “mailed” as opposed to hand-delivered or sent via a campus mail system (for colleagues at my institution I would mail a card to their office address). There is something extra special about finding a personalized card or letter mixed in with the daily junk mail and circulars that arrive at home. The responses were truly heartfelt and sincere.
- There does not need to be a special reason to write to someone. Sometimes I laughed when a friend or colleague would ask why I sent them a letter. Did they forget an important date? Do something wrong? I simply responded I just wanted to send them a note. The biggest reaction came from people when they were least expecting to have a handwritten card arrive in the mail.
- Handwriting a note does not take much time. Commitment is crucial to the process. The hardest part of composing some form of correspondence is forcing yourself to sit down in a comfortable chair, at a desk, and write. You do want to give some thought to your writing, but once you are seated, pen in hand the words usually flow effortlessly.
- You don’t have to write a tome. Very few of my cards or letters were of great length. As I’ve told students taking essay exams—it’s not the quantity, but the quality of the writing that counts.
- A handwritten note has recuperative powers. I was astonished by the number of people that were so deeply affected and truly gratified upon receiving one of my cards. I heard back from individuals with such remarks as “You don’t know how much your card meant to me” or “Your card came at a very difficult time for me. Thank you.” Bottom line—you never, never know the magnitude a handwritten note will have on someone.
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Podcast With Patrick Love on Strategic Planning in SA