Thank You Notes

When I was a child back in the 1960’s, my brothers and I received Christmas gifts of cash from our Iowa grandparents. The envelope was a predictable shape – long and narrow – and contained a special paper holder with a hole showing the face on the bill.

The thrill of receiving real money in Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian denominations was quickly quenched by our mother’s urgent insistence that we sit right down and write a thank you note to our grandparents.

We got a box of these notes every single Christmas. How I resisted that chore! How I resented having my pleasure in receiving the present so quickly squashed by the weight of this obligation! I did it though. I sat down and wrote my rote thanks in neat printing – or later, cursive.

Lately I’ve taken up sending handwritten notes again — this time with great pleasure.

Several times a week I bring a blank card to my breakfast table with the envelope stamped and ready. Sipping my coffee I consider who will be the recipient of today’s missive. Sometimes it’s for a friend going through a challenging patch. Other times it’s to express gratitude to a work colleague who connected me with someone interesting. Today it was to a graduate of my Full Voice Coach Training course who stepped in as my apprentice at an out of town workshop last weekend.

I enjoy so many things about this practice. Here are a few:

Mindset: Starting off my day in the spirit of gratitude and appreciation for people in my life makes for a better day.

Brevity: A card has a limited amount of space for whatever thoughts I want to convey. I call upon my poet self to find the simplest, most heartfelt way to say what’s on my mind.

Touch: I’ve always loved the act of handwriting. As I follow the intertwining lines of my thoughts and my pen, I imagine the recipient’s eyes tracing each word. It creates an embodied connection between us.

Surprise: I like planting a little surprise in someone’s day. There nestled among the heap of junk mail and bills they find something real and beautiful. It’s a little ambush of affection in an unexpected place.

Here’s the strange thing.

Since I began doing this practice a few weeks ago, I’ve been receiving a lot of notes myself. And not from the people I’ve been sending them to!  One of the Full Voice coaches wrote to express gratitude for our connection and shared work. Another friend wrote a little note of encouragement after she saw me exhausted and drawn at a choir rehearsal. And a client enclosed a handwritten note of appreciation with payment for a keynote speech I did for her group.

Handwritten notes are flying in and out of my mailbox like brightly colored birds.

And that makes me happy.


About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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4 Responses to Thank You Notes

  1. Liz Anema says:

    Love and agree xoxoxxo back at it myself…cultivating the joy in so many ways!

    Thank you for sharing, Barbara!


    Liz Anema
    Studio Director
    The Marsh, A Center for Balance and Fitness
    15000 Minnetonka Boulevard
    Minnetonka, Minnesota 55345
    952-930-8528 (Direct); 952-935-2202 (Main Number); 952-935-9685 (Fax)

  2. While this isn’t a handwritten note, it is a heartfelt appreciation for your blog. I read it with relish each week and it nourishes me. Thank you.


  3. This is just one of the best ideas… Think what the world would be like if this is what everyone thought about when they awoke each morning.

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