A thank you note benefits both the recipient and the writer. It reminds the writer of blessings received, and it motivates the recipient to bless others again. A written thank you note is a great way to deepen your relationship with someone.

Last year’s “Make it a Relational New Years Resolution”

I first mentioned this a year ago in episode 087, “Make it a Relational New Years Resolution.” It was about resolving to do something kind, caring, or thoughtful for people during the course of the year to the extent you would receive a thank you note for what you did. I’ll have a link to this episode at the bottom of the show notes.

I was ready to move on today with another relational resolution for this year to talk to you about. But before doing that, I thought we should look back at the results of last year’s relational resolution. Before the future, consider the past and present.

I was surprised by what I learned when I did this for myself. I’ll share what I discovered because it can help you in considering a way to add depth to your relationships here in the New Year.

Why a written thank you note?

By way of review, to receive a written “thank you” note, you had to do something pretty meaningful for someone to make the effort to show their appreciation in this way. For our purposes, it had to be in writing. Electronic communication didn’t count, nor did verbal expressions of gratitude.

In the age we live in, where electronic communication is the norm, for someone to use older technology like writing a note, requires a lot more of that person.

After I received a thank you note or card last year, I read and dated them, and then placed them in a folder.

Observations about the 2021 “thank you” cards I received
  • From a scrap of paper to a linen parchment card, no two were the same. I’ve gotten identical birthday cards and Christmas cards, but no duplicate thank you notes.
  • I received 5 thank you notes that mentioned appreciation for this podcast. I doubt if any of you have a podcast, but I’m sure a lot of you are doing things you enjoy that benefit other people.
  • Several couples, and two single people we invited for dinner at our house, sent us written thank you notes.
  • Thank you notes for birthdays and high school graduation gifts were the next most common.
  • Two missionary couples who stayed with us a week to 10 days or so thanked us in writing.
  • A friend of ours was sick with Covid, so Janet picked up groceries for her family and I delivered them.
  • We received thank you notes from three teenage boys, all for high school graduation gifts. And they were most tender expressions of gratitude. Their parents raised them well!
  • One person, a donor to our Caring for Others ministry, wrote at least 3 thank you notes over the course of last year. Here he was sending donations to us, and at the same time thanking us for our ministry in quite specific terms about what he was grateful for in what we do.
A sampling of thank you notes received

I feel a little uncomfortable reading these because they paint Janet and me in a good light, which you would think would happen in a thank you note. A more well-rounded picture would come from complaints people have about us.

But my only purpose in sharing them is to give you ideas of what you can do to impact the lives of people, to make a positive difference, to the point they will go to the trouble of thanking you in writing.

A secondary purpose is to give you ideas of HOW to thank people, as you listen to how people thanked Janet and me last year for one thing or another. Here’s the first one.

Just a quick note to say “Thanks” for your friendship over the years! Knowing you guys and being able to LEAN on you at times gives us confidence in His Grace!… Mostly I just wanted to make sure we get something in your 2021 pile of thank you notes.”  ~ L. & J.

O.K., so this is clergy appreciation month! Although I consider you a friend you are also my clergy phone friend, and I appreciate your Biblical teaching and related challenges. ORA at work! ~ October V.A.

Do you remember ORA? Observe. Reflect. Act. ORA.

You have earned a thank you note! Thank you for teaching your listeners about how to care for others. It is so encouraging to listen to you each week. I especially like the one-take-home point for the week. I look forward to actionable items to care for others. ~ D.P.

Gratitude expressed for the unexpected

We are so grateful for how you are reaching people around the world with your podcast and are happy to help it grow! We are also so grateful that you have been willing to connect with our son (18-year-old high school senior) during this challenging time of a teenage boy’s life. He comes home smiling and seems more content. Thank you.   ~ K.P.

On the back of envelope: I forgot to tell you. This note is from my Grandma’s collection! She always wrote thank you notes!

Here’s a note from a businessperson to me, as her customer. The following is from the designer of our new website from last September:

John, thank you for trusting me to redo your website. It was such a fun project…I love being able to support others doing important work for Christ. Thank you for your loyalty over the years and I am so glad you stumbled upon my ….training video a few years ago. :)    ~ L.D.

Thanks so much for making my birthday special. The cake was delicious and I was touched by your thoughtfulness. I love my tomato knife and can’t wait to try it. Thanks again.   ~ D. B.

Dear John and Janet,
Thank you so much for including us in your family lunch last week. You are so kind and generous. Blessings to you two!   ~ J. & K.

Dear John and Janet
Thanks for the beautiful card and generous gift of money we really appreciate it. We will use it for gas to ride down there. Thanking God for both of you.     ~B.R.and S.R.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,
Thank you so much for coming down to my graduation and for your generous gift. I really appreciate all the ways you’ve supported me and spent time with me throughout my life, like all the times I’ve stayed at your house and the trips to the library with Grandpa, and the cookies Grandma and I have baked. Thank you always for being there for me. Maybe sometime you can come visit me at the University of South Carolina and we can get some cheese curds and get into an argument about who I should vote for. I hope your trip back went well – see you on Zoom! Love, Nathan

So what does all this mean for YOU?

How can you use what you’ve heard today to add more depth to the relationships in YOUR life?

Start by remembering that a written thank you note is simply a marker of the positive impact you had in someone's life. That’s the point of this relational resolution, not the thank you note itself. Writing a thank you note gets our eyes off ourselves to focus on a blessing we received.

One important thing to remember is not to expect people to thank you for the good you do for them. Often they won’t. But you do good things for people anyway, because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not about you; it’s about them. Doing good for others is living out Romans 12, and reflecting the character of God. With Jesus living in us, we are equipped and empowered to be the person God created us to be. We truly were made for this.

We are made in His image and Jesus was often doing good things for people, with no expectation that he would be thanked for it. In fact, I’ll have to look into this later, but I don’t recall any stories in the Bible where people thanked Jesus for blessing them. If any of you can think of an example, please let me know.

If writing a handwritten thank you note is a challenge for you, ask God for help. Ask him for help in remembering the blessings you received, and who were the people God used to bless you. Ask him for help in what to say and how to say it. When we ask God for help like this it won’t be hard,

If you have young children, and where appropriate, post the notes on your refrigerator or where they can see them. Share them with your kids as they come in. When you write one, and before you mail it, tell your kids what you are doing and why you are doing it. Then read it to them. Have them put the note in the envelope, seal it, and place the stamp on the envelope. Teach them by example.

For me, our kids are grown and have kids of their own. But when I die I want them to display a board at my funeral with all the thank you notes I received. Skip the pics of summer picnics and faded Christmas gatherings when I was in my 20s and had hair on my head. Display the thank you notes. Maybe that will encourage someone.

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

A thank you note benefits both the writer and recipient. It reminds the writer of blessings received and motivates the recipient to continue reflecting the character of God by blessing others. These are two great benefits of a handwritten thank you note.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode, and any thank you notes you received.


I closing, I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act by doing good for people to the extent they thank you in writing for it.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us we were made for this. It reads “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week when I will suggest another relational resolution for this current year. I can’t wait to share it with you! Goodbye for now.

Related episodes you may want to listen to

087: Make it a Relational New Years Resolution

088: Get Them to say “Thank You for Asking”

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