Hello everyone and welcome to episode 116, “Finding Joy from a Thank You note.”

Most days of the week I take a 30-minute walk early in the morning around our neighborhood. On one recent morning, I was feeling especially down for no apparent reason. I get that way sometimes, and taking a brisk walk seems to help.

At the end of my morning walk, I go to our mailbox to get our newspaper delivered to the box right below it. And then I open our mailbox in case I forgot to get the mail from the day before. 99% of the time it’s empty.

But on this particular depressing morning, there was a note in the mailbox that changed everything for me that day. Keep listening and I’ll tell you about the note and how it brought joy into my day.

A mysterious note

The note was in a purple envelope, handwritten and addressed to Janet and me. I wondered at first who it was from, and what it was for. So I opened the envelope and found a “thank you” note inside.

“Thanks for what,” I wondered. Inside the note read,

“Janet and John, thank you for the yummy snacks, cute butterfly cookie, and coloring book.”

Underneath this was a small hand-drawn heart and then a name I couldn’t read at first, but quickly realized it said “Gwen.”

Gwen?, I thought. Gwen? Oh yeah, that Gwen.

Why the note

The previous weekend Janet and a friend organized a get-together for several new neighbors who recently moved here, to get acquainted and welcome them to the neighborhood.

One family that was coming had a 4-year-old daughter, and she was going to be the only child among all these big people. That would be Gwen. So knowing this, and to help her stay less bored with all these adults, she was given a gift bag with …guess what? Yummy snacks, a cute butterfly cookie, and a coloring book.

And so to thank us, Gwen, with prompting from her parents I’m sure, expressed her appreciation with a thank you note placed in our mailbox

A reminder

Janet and I both got a big kick out of this thank you note from a 4-year old. It lifted my spirits and brought a measure of joy into my heart that day. What good parents she has in raising her to do things like this. After keeping the note on our counter for a few days I later placed it in a folder I have marked “Thank You Cards Received – 2021.”

All of this reminded me of episode 87 of this podcast from this past January. It was about making a relational New Year’s resolution for the year. I’ll have a link to it in the show notes.

The point of that episode, and the New Year’s resolution, was to make it our goal to receive many “Thank You” cards or notes for the rest of 2021. It was to do something significant for someone that would prompt the person to send you a thank you note.

How are we doing so far?

If you’re a regular listener, have you forgotten this resolution? I did for a time. But this “thank you” note from 4-year old Gwen brought it back to mind. The main point was not the “thank you” note itself. Rather, it was to do something for someone that they so appreciated that it moved them to tell you so in writing. Not a text. Not an email. Something in writing. Ink, pencil, or crayon on some form of paper.

Well, we are just past the mid-point of the year, and I’m wondering how we are all doing with keeping this New Years' resolution. If you’ve done nothing, or are new to the podcast, that’s okay. It’s never too late to start now.

Ideas for you

To give you ideas of how this could work for you, here’s what Janet and I did to get the 19 “Thank You” notes or cards we’ve received:

  • We gave graduation gifts to 2 high school students
  • We got cards from 2 missionary couples, each of whom stayed with us a week to 10 days each. One couple stayed twice this year and left a written thank you card with us each time.
  • We sent flowers for my 100-year-old aunt’s funeral, who died in February.
  • I got a card from Janet earlier in the year, thanking me for emptying the dishwasher in the morning. (Oops! I forgot to do it this morning.)
  • We gave some money to a friend to help with funeral expenses for her husband who died so unexpectedly.
  • A missionary serving in South America, thanked me in a written note for our online conversations to help her work through a difficult family relationship issue.
Remember the real issue

Remember, the “thank you” note or card is not the issue. Doing something meaningful for another person that evokes an expression of gratitude is the issue.

  • Another example is we gave a small one-time donation to help a young couple going to the mission field the first time. That prompted a “thank you” note from them.
  • We also got cards from 2 couples we had over for dinner. They’re part of a new church we’ve been helping get started.
  • Then a single person we had for dinner another time also sent us a “thank you” note.
  • A small check we sent to friends going through a costly family emergency resulted in a “thank you” note from them.
  • We also received 4 written “thank you” notes from listeners to the podcast, expressing their appreciation about one thing or another they found meaningful in the podcast.
  • Then, of course, the thank you from 4-year-old Gwen that I found in our mailbox recently.
So what does all this mean for YOU?

I hope you’re reminded, like I was, to send a written note of appreciation to someone who has been kind or thoughtful to you. It’s so easy for all of us to forget. It’s so easy to take people for granted. But it's not too late to get started.

In fact, Gwen’s note prompted me to send a “thank you” note myself to friends who recently had us over for dinner.

A few of the things Janet and I did to get a “thank you” note involved spending a little money. If you don’t have any money to spare, there are so many other things you can do to bless people. Bless people with your words. Bless them with your deeds…like emptying the dishwasher in the morning.

Just call before you come.

It’s not too late this year to get started doing something kind and thoughtful for another person, even if they never thank you. Be kind anyway. It will bring out the best in you.

And if you’re a parent, teach your kids what Gwen’s parents are teaching her: When someone goes out of their way to do something thoughtful for you, be sure to thank them. Thank them in writing.

Here’s the main point I hope you remember from today’s episode

It comes from the Bible. The Book of Hebrews, chapter 10:24:

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Thanking people for what they do, and who they are, is one way of doing this.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode, especially examples of Thank You notes you’ve received. Just send them to me in an email to john [at] caringforothers [dot] org. Or you can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.


In closing, if you found this podcast helpful, please forward this episode on to others you think might be interested in today’s content.

I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Goodbye for now.

A related episode you may want to listen to:

087: Make it a Relational New Year’s Resolution

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