When Was the Last Time You Wrote a Thank-You Note?

A woman hunched over her desk, handwriting a note. On the desk is a laptop, pens and paper. Art by Haley Tippmann.

As a child, I spent a lot of time traveling. Every school holiday, I’d say au revoir and adios to one of my parents and board a plane to meet the other several hours later. My trips away spanned several weeks every few months and were crammed with family dinners and exclamations of, “You’ve grown so much!” and “When was the last time I saw you?”

When, inevitably, it was time to return home; to school, I’d sit myself down and write thank-you notes — to my dad, my grandmothers, and my gaggle of cousins, uncles, and aunts. I’d secretly deposit my squares of paper and promises to be good and stay healthy and come again soon in handbags and desk drawers and coffee mugs I knew for certain my family would stumble upon.

Perhaps I felt that the letters I left behind would provide them comfort – as theirs did for me – or would bring them a moment’s joy when discovered. Perhaps I just had too much time on my hands, but I loved writing thank-you notes.

Last week it occurred to me that I hadn’t written one in a while, which is a shame. People love receiving them. No matter how brief or tidy, there’s something about a hand-written note that wields the incredible power of brightening one’s mood; making them feel seen and loved and appreciated.

So, last week, I set out to write a thank-you note each day. But by Wednesday, I was writing dozens.

At first, I wrote to friends and family but soon, I was writing to everyone. People I’d just met. Total strangers. The cashier who I always see at Woolworths but have only ever exchanged hello’s and how are you’s with. I was writing to things, too. Because when I looked around, it wasn’t just family members and friends I was grateful for. I was grateful for a barista’s skillful milk pour and the sun shining on the wooden table where I sat. I was thankful to the stranger who chased my hat when the wind whipped it off my head and my pen’s ink, for seemingly never running out.

Taking stock of both the grand and seemingly insignificant things that bring me joy or improve my life has made me realise that sometimes, I get so caught up in the hustle-bustle of everyday living that it becomes easy to forget the greatness that’s right here, in front of me.

handwritten thank you note with a black marker pen: the words read, 'thank you.'
Here are a few of the highlights from my seven days of Thank-you Notes: 


Thank you, ballet class
For simultaneously making me ache but feel strong.
You’re well worth the swollen toes and sore stomach.

Dear fog,
In the early mornings on my way to work, when you blanket the city I call home and prevent me from seeing more than a hundred meters in front of me, I’m reminded to keep myself in the present – and not get lost in thinking of the future. Thank you for that. (And thank you for making everything feel magical, it’s great.) 

Thank you, little brothers
For never rejecting my requests for impromptu dancing sessions in the middle of the living room.
You’re both wonderful (most of the time).

Dear fried rice,
Thanks for existing.
That’s all.

Thank you watch,
For not shattering into a million pieces when I dropped you yesterday morning.
I appreciate that.

Dear favourite pen,
Thanks for
turning up when I was starting to believe I’d lost you.

Thank you, Decca,
You’ve always been a great cat, but I appreciate that you brought me that dead spider last night. (Even though I don’t condone you killing spiders, I thought the gift was kind of sweet.) (I don’t think the spider appreciated it though.) 


What are you thankful for this week? I’d love to know.  

6 Comments

  1. […] handwrite thank you notes to the air that fills my lungs; the legs that hold me up; to fried rice (for being delicious); to the barista that greets me in French with a smile on her face day after […]

  2. […] – and instead of spending the evening together, my mom came with me to an Ed Sheeran concert. (Thanks for spending your anniversary with 50,000 people that aren’t your husband, […]

  3. Thank you for the reminder that gratitude is the best attitude. I used to write a list of 5 things I’m grateful for, that often included things like a good night’s sleep, food, cats and family.

    1. Ah, man – a good night’s sleep can totally change the kind of person I am! So, I’m definitely on that gratitude train too.

      I’ve always kept lists of three things I’m grateful for, but I think I’m going to try five for awhile.
      The more the merrier, right?

  4. I love this idea and think that even the simple thanks of everything may become too excessive.

    Yet it does make you realise how lucky we are to have a working watch, a cat that we can love and afford to feed. And all the other incidentals that we take for granted. Many people when expressing gratitude only do so for the big things. This made me realise that appreciating, and actively being thankful is quite important. Thank you

    1. No, thank you.
      There are definitely things you’ve included that need more of my attention – like continually – actively – being thankful.

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