Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Beauty of the Thank You Note

     It is as true today as it was 100 years ago; Americans are a very busy people. If you're a student you've  too much homework and too many after school activities. If you're a parent you have to manage those after school activities and work. If you've got a job, but haven't any kids, you're probably overworked too.
  We're all very busy. But there is no one as busy and constantly "on the go" as my dear friend Josiah. I met Josiah in college and in our years of friendship I've barely known him to have a spare moment. Recently, Josiah moved to NYC and with our conflicting schedules we didn't talk for nearly six months. That was inexcusable. I don't remember who called the other first, but we did end up talking for about an hour and it was great to catch up.
 During our conversation, Josiah mentioned to me his new found love for the Art Deco style (since moving to the Big Apple his tastes have matured immensely). At the time of our call, I had just come home from a quick visit to some friends in upstate New York and had been antiquing with them.  Among the treasures brought home was a pair of pressed glass candleholders from about 1940. I knew Josiah would love them. After writing a nice note I sent Josiah the candleholders as a housewarming present.
 Well, Josiah didn't call me to tell let me know they had arrived or anything. Luckily, I had a tracking number added to them. Then, just last week, a card arrived for me from Josiah. I won't bore you with the details of the card, but I will tell you that receiving a "Thank You" card made me feel like a million dollars.
 These type of communications may seem over-bearingly old fashioned, but nothing can replace them. The "Thank You" is one of the best things out there. People need to send them more often. Granted, as previously stated, we're a very busy people. But time spent on these kind of pleasantries is not time wasted.
 In the September 2010 issue of Southern Living, there was a small tutorial on writing a "Charming Thank You Note."  According to the tutorial there are five very simple steps to creating a note that anyone will want to keep rather than toss in the waste basket.  And I quote.....

1) Start with the date and salutation; As in, "October 30th, 2010" in the top right hand corner and beginning the note with "Dear Anthony," or "My dear Mary."

2) Say thanks right "off the bat."  Unlike the way my blogs are written you should get to the point quickly. Start off with, "I'm writing to say..." or "Thank you again for.."

3) Compliment the kind gesture. People like to know that their effort was appreciated. "I can't tell you what a surprise it was..." or "How did you know I had been looking for..." or "It's just what I wanted for.."

4) Allude to the future. Tell people how you plan to use the gift or suggest another time when you can return the hospitality.

5) Finish with sincere regards. "Yours Truly," "Always Yours," "Ever Fondly" and "Wishing you the Best,"

  Thank you Southern Living for the how-to tutorial. I hope this helps those of you who sometimes don't know what to say. Of course now we have the question of when one sends a "Thank You" or why we send one in general.
 We send "Thank You" cards to recognize people for the generosity or hospitality they show us or for an effort made on our behalf. I myself send notes to my Nana after visits with her. They serve as nice reminders of one of her grandchildren visiting. It's always appropriate to send a card to someone after receiving a gift. If someone tries to get you a job interview thank them for their efforts.
  Do emails count as "Thank You" notes? The answer here is a "yes" and a "no." Receiving a card is always a nice change of pace from the bills, advertisements, and other things we find in our mailboxes. A handwritten card is vastly more personal. It speaks of effort from someone who appreciates what the receiver has done. Effort in actually writing legibly. Effort in using nice paper. Effort in finding a stamp and walking to the mailbox. These efforts tell of gratitude. Emails, if written to thank someone, therefore, must be made personal and speak of just as much effort from the sender as a handwritten card would. Granted, it can be difficult finding an address, we live in a world of information and it can be done with a little gumption.
 These cards don't have to be overly elaborate and time consuming either. Just follow the guidelines from the folks at Southern Living and you can have a nice "Thank You" written out and addressed in five minutes. We can always find five minutes somewhere in the day to do this. You may have to miss a couple commercials in order to take the time and write out the card, but in the end everyone feels good. Your benefactor feels good that you like the gift or are grateful for the effort. And you feel great using the nice handwriting you learned in third grade!
 Try to send out the "Thank You" card within two weeks of receiving the favor, hospitality, or gift. This way it's still fresh in your memory and the card's receiver will have it within a timely manner. This is unless you're writing out "Thank You" cards for your wedding gifts. In that case, according to Emily Post, you have a full year!
 I hope you enjoyed reading this little how-to rant of mine and that you'll use it. Please feel free to send a comment, email, or question anytime. Have a great day and thank you for reading!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Inaugural Post!

   Hello and welcome to the inaugural post of Anthony's Everyday Advice! This blog has been conceived with the intention of handing out advice and answering questions having to do with etiquette, party-planning, and ideas for adding a little bit of elegance and ceremony to everyday life.
  We live in a world where men barely open doors for ladies and people rarely open doors for their elders. We've donated or sold off our grandmother's cherished silver services because they were to hard to keep polished. As a people, we all too often come home from being overworked and merely sit in front of the TV, instead of persuing conversation or a hobby. God forbid we read for enjoyment! Granted, there was never an ideal age when truly everthing was right with the world and everyone was treated with genuine respect and enjoyed giving and receiving hospitality or when a harsh word was never, hardly ever, uttered in public. Nor has there ever been a time like now, when a group sits down to dinner and may notice several people at the table having conversations with other friends miles away via text and when people wear jeans to weddings. There must be a happy, reachable medium that we may strive for and life with.
  As I write this I must convince and justify to myself that I am the person that should dole out advice. And, to be honest, I can't see why I should tell people how to live their lives, but I can't see why I shouldn't make suggestions and share the advice I've learned from some of the kindest and most considerate people it's been my priviledge to know.
 Six years ago today my grandmother passed away. After the sadness, anger, and sense of loss brought on by her death passed, I came to remember Grammy's spirit and her kindness. Of course, no one has ever been perfect, but we all hold our grandparents in the highest esteem and we tend to learn a great many things from those people we spend a great deal of time with. From my time with Grammy I concluded that kindness, consideration, and gentility are the most redeeming and memorable traits anyone can possess.
 My father's parents were mill workers. They spent their lives working for GE and raised six children on very modest salaries. On the eve of retirement they were run over and spent their last remaining years struggling to live and to enjoy watching their children and grandchildren grow. My grandfather died of cancer. My grandmother followed him within two years from Alzheimer's. Yet, with those troubles, Grammy and Grampy could make someone feel like they were the only person in the room. They were generous with what they had and no grandchild's accomplishment ever went unrecognized. Nor did we ever have a bad Christmas.
 My thoughts of Grammy run to her blue eyes and that everyone was welcomed in her home. My father told me that growing up he knew that no matter what time he got home from work or a game that Grammy would have dinner waiting for him. I remember how she loved tea and her many cups and saucers. I remember her love of music and how even years after the accident when she hard great difficulty walking and keeping balance how she and I would slowly dance to the old crooners, like Jerry Vale, in her parlor (or living room as most of us would call it now).
 What I mean to say, as I prattle on and on, is that Grammy and Grampy's example to me of hospitality, kindness, and respect is what I would like to impart with my blog. It's my goal that when people come to my house that they leave with the same feeling I left Grammy and Grampy's house with. I want to be able to give advice and suggestions to help people know that consideration and good manners are timeless.
  It is my sincere hope that I may play a small part in reviving some form of chivalry and a more "up-to-date" sort of etiquette that our fast-paced world seems to be lacking. With help in the forms of questions from readers, references from well-known and respected "Etiquette Gurus," and inspiration from everyday occurrences; I feel I will be able to do just that.