By Janny J. Johnson
When my kids were young, every Thanksgiving holiday I would look for special projects we could do together—something beyond the usual construction-paper turkeys. One November I decided we’d begin a new tradition of expressing gratitude by writing letters. I felt that if each child wrote thank you letters to three people the first week of November it would be a great way to help them learn how to express appreciation for others.
I approached the project armed with construction paper, crayons, glitter and glue sticks. I sat the kids down to tell them we would be writing thank you letters to people who might not expect that type of mail.
“Wait a minute,” said my daughter, Kristie. “No one ever writes us thank you letters.”
Her comment caught me off-guard. She had a point. “I haven’t received many unexpected thank you letters,” I admitted. “Often people forget to say thank you. That’s what makes this project so special.”
The kids nodded their heads in agreement, but they still looked a little confused.
“These thank you letters will be different than ones we write thanking people for presents,” I said. “These letters will be for thanking people who smile at us, or who have been kind. Can each of you think of three people you want to thank?” I asked.
Surprisingly, it was Matthew—only four-years-old—who had it figured out. “I want to say thank you to Mrs. Sanders for giving me a banana when I was playing with Tommy at their house.”
“Perfect,” I said.
All of the kids soon made a list of who they would write to or draw a picture for, and began the project in earnest. Even my almost three-year-old was able to think of people to thank. But Kristie could only come up with two names.
Everyone else finished up, and we’d addressed some of the letters to mail the next day. Kristie still stewed about who would receive her last letter. I made a few suggestions, but none of my ideas met with her approval.
The following day, the kids sat at the window, waiting to give their special letters to Amy, our fun mail carrier.
“I see her!” the cry went out.
Amy was in her twenties and had always waved and chatted with my kids as they shared important news with her. She would take the time to pet our dog and admire the kids’ art work. Once, she even sang happy birthday to one of my children.
Kristie flew from the window where she’d been sitting. She called to me as she ran for paper and pencils, “Amy is my third thank-you person!”
Kristie frantically set to work and finished the letter just as Amy came up our walk. Kristie greeted Amy on our porch. Kristie explained, “We wrote Thanksgiving thankful letters. And I’m thankful for you.”
With that, Kristie handed the mail carrier a letter. Large, blue-crayoned letters spelled out “Amy” across the envelope.
Amy bent down with a big smile and thanked Kristie for the special letter.
The next day, we returned from running errands after mail time. When Kristie checked our mailbox, she found a postcard addressed to “The Johnson kids.” Taped to the backside were four foil-wrapped chocolates, each decorated with a goofy turkey. Amy had printed: I am thankful for all of you!
That day, I wrote my first thank you letter—to Amy.
Janny J. Johnson is a freelance writer who was at one tie the mom in a household filled with: a husband, four children, an exchange student, five cats, two goldfish, a dog, a bird and a bunny. Now she sits in a recliner with a laptop and writes about those days. Find her at: http://www.jannyjjohnson.com