Thursday, January 25, 2007


I hate writing "Thank You" notes. I don't even like receiving them, because I know the vehemence that is most likely sealed tightly into that little cream envelope. I hope that doesn't sound ungrateful, because I really am thankful for gifts we receive, but there is just something about the process of sitting down with a list of people who have given you gifts and feeling overwhelmed by the task. There are those gifts from people who you know, no matter how you gush in your letter, it still is going to sound petty in light of the size of the gift. "Dear XX, Thank you so much for the entire set of Caphlon cook-ware you gave Jeremiah and me. I know you spent several hundred dollars, and I feel absolutely awful because of it. Sure hope this note is enough!" Then there are those gifts that you have no idea what they are or what to do with them. You just have to describe the item really well, throw out a blanket statement and hope it covers. "Dear XX, Thank you so much for the beautiful, ceramic, fruit sculpture with a lid that you gave Jeremiah and me. It will look beautiful displayed in our new home." Finally, there are always that small group of random gifts that you CANNOT figure out who they are from. Invariably there will always be an expensive gift or two in this category, and you know there is a sweet elderly lady still checking her mailbox every day to see if that tacky young girl has gotten around to thanking her yet. For these reasons, thank you notes give me shortness of breath.

It's sad to me that the only letters I ever get in the mail are the above and invitations. I am not saying that condescendingly, because I never take the time to write personal letters either. I blame this on thank you notes, because they have given me a foul taste for writing letters in general. I think that the loss of this form of communication is one of the great travesties of our modern day world. Now we have email! you say, but you can't hold an email in your hand. You can't get a sense of the person's personality, like you can when you see someones hand-writing. You CAN print an email and save it, but honestly, how often do you do that? The reason you don't save emails is because they are rarely written with much thought or heart. They take so little time to get where they're going, that there is no reason to sit down and think through all you want to convey to the recipient. If you forgot something, then just shoot-'em another one tomorrow.

Then there are the telephone, the cell phone, and the answering machine. I know there are a lot of people out there who would much rather just speak what is on their mind than take the time to write it down. I do not think this is wrong, I am just in awe of anyone who can do it. If I really want to share my feelings with someone, I would MUCH rather be able to plan out the way I want to express myself than ramble on-and-on-and-on in an incoherent manner (which is what usually happens). It is also a lot less awkward to write down how wonderful you think someone is than try to say it to their face. I won't even venture into all of my issues with cell phones. I will just tell you what my friend Brandon Nall has, in my opinion, very profoundly named them--"Fellowship Killers."

The answering machine is very tricky to me. They, like letters, are less intimidating to relay messages to than the actual person. One of their problems, though, is that once you've said it, there's no erasing, no throwing it away and starting over, it's out there. Even if you confess in a fit of excitement after a second date that, "I think I'm falling in love with you!", there's no getting it back :) I also find that I have trouble trusting that answering machines will convey my message (maybe this is linked to how infrequently I check my own messages). Even if I have just left a detailed explanation of something on someones machine, I still find myself repeating the exact, same thing when I actually talk to them on the phone/in person. I'll say, "I just left this on your machine, BUT..." I can't stop myself, even when I know it's annoying as crap to the person to have to hear the same thing repeated again.

So, I hate thank you notes, because they have tainted all written correspondence in my mind. This is a shame because I think emails, telephones, cell phones, and even answering machines are all "plastic" (as Edith Schaeffer would say) forms of communication. (I do understand that there are matters that need to be communicated quickly and these devices are very useful for that purpose. I am talking more here about conveying feelings and thoughts with friends) So, I am going to try and get over my hatred of letter writing, because it is a beautiful and personal way to communicate.

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