Enough of the bald wisdom and big cleaning projects. As of late, I’m all about the thank you notes. As in, they are super important and often overlooked and I judge people when I don’t receive them. There, I said it. Before you stop reading this post and hide in shame because you’ve forgotten a note or two, let me confess one of my own embarrassing blemishes. There are many but this one rolls around in my brain. And as someone who has interviewed and provided counsel to many folks, I will share with you why, exactly, the thank you note should never ever be forgotten.
My senior year of college, there was an unfortunate collision of events that happened on December 31, 1998 in our infamous college house. I won’t divulge details to protect the innocent except to say there was a party and there were handcuffs. With only two quarters left, our landlord showed up on our doorstep and handed us an eviction notice the next day. We were 21 years old and clueless. Fairly responsible, good-hearted young women, but we were naive. We had no idea what was going on or what to do or where to start when we got the notice. We didn’t know our rights. We had no idea there were laws to protect us. We were just guilty Catholic women who accepted our fate and started to look for a new place to live because we had a party that ended badly and we had to pay the price. That price was being evicted from our house. It was an excruciating two weeks. Hot messes we women were - starting a new quarter, looking for a place to live in the middle of the school year, worried about graduation. You get the picture.
Then we were blessed with Mr. Super Awesome Lawyer who was the father of one of our college buddies, B*. B* told his dad about us and Mr. Super Awesome Lawyer told his son to tell us to give him a ring. I called him. He saved us. Eviction notice, gone. Poof. Buh-bye. We resumed partying on our porch and contemplating our travel plans after graduation. Life was back to awesome. We would all go on to do wonderful things because he saved our college house thus saving us from being homeless and having to drop out of school.
I never took the time to write him a thank you note though. Nor did I even pick up the phone to let him know the outcome after he called me back and told me the news. I look back and I’m embarrassed. Like, super embarrassed. I was raised in a family where we couldn’t play with our x-mas presents unless our thank you cards were written. I knew better than that.
At the time I never took into account that he probably billed more in one hour than I made at my work study job that year of college. Nor did I take into account that he was a very busy Partner at a law firm or that he didn’t really know us and just had a lot of compassion for us as kids. He did a really nice thing out of the kindness of his heart because his son said we needed help. He probably never expected anything in return because he was just a nice man.
And then it happened to me recently. I was “thank you” stiffed. My name gets passed on to folks for professional and life counsel often. Maybe they have cancer and have just lost their hair and need a good hair lady referral. Maybe they just graduated from college and are super lost with no direction and no parental help. Maybe they just started a business and want to know the top ten things I recommend to do to build their operations. I take time with these peeps because I remember what it was or is like. Nothing brings me greater joy than when I can help someone move forward in life.
I would say 99% of the time, a relationship is formed or loops are closed and thank yous are given - formally, informally, etc. But in the last year or so, I helped a couple people and there was no closure. No email, no thank you, no text, no tweet and it really left an impression on me. I’m the first to jump up to use my contacts and network to help a good soul. But it dawned on me that perhaps if these peeps never said thank you to me, they didn't say thank you to whomever I passed them onto. And THAT bothers me.
Now, I feel cautious. And a little apprehensive about writing that LinkedIn recommendation or doing a warm introduction for someone. I don’t want to hoard what I have to give, but every connection I make or help, means that they represent me in the world. In my world, we are classy and polished, writing thank you notes and doing gracious things for others. I like to think the peeps were just busy and were grateful and it’ll come karmically come back to me later but it worries me that maybe my reputation is tarnished by virtue of my affiliations. I know for those thankless couple of peeps, I have an impression of them and if they came to me for help now, I might not be so willing or might not go the extra mile. Which is too bad because I have a lot to give.
So on that note, I got some stationary out and wrote a thank you to Mr. Super Awesome Lawyer and his son today. I figure, better late than never. Emily Post says this is the better route to go and I believe her! What would probably show my gratitude more is if I referred some business to Mr. Super Awesome Lawyer. So if you are PNW-based and need a Business or Real Estate lawyer, talk to me. ;)
Onwards. May you be expressing and receiving gratitude in your own life. LL
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