let me tell you a story. it's a sort of parable actually. one day, Jesus decided to heal 10 lepers. to do this he sent them away to the priests to show them that they had been healed. after this they went on about their way, except for one, who decided to send Jesus a thank you note. he found Jesus' address, which was quite difficult because foxes have holes but this guy lacked a pillow. he wrote out the card, trying to figure out exactly what to say, since basically everything that needed to be said was written on the outside of the card. finally he settled on this:
"thank you Jesus for healing me. i very much appreciate the action and i will make sure to put to good use my now fully functioning body. you're the best.
har har a little cheesy i know. but i was thinking about this the other day and it really got me wondering--what is the deal with thank you notes? i don't mean that question in a seinfeld comedy sketch sort of way, but for real. why have these things become such a cultural norm. not only are they a norm but they are expected and even often passive-aggresively demanded. "unless i get a thank you note well then maybe i just won't give you a present next year!"
you do something nice for someone, but then when you don't get the thank you note in the mail you feel somehow cheated and that they were ungrateful--even though they expressed their thanks several times during or right after the actual event. but that's not enough. we have to get the little card, to show they took the time to care. of course when we receive the card we read it over carefully, usually many times over, frame it, put it up where we can always see it. no! it usually finds its way into the trash very shortly, or for the packrats in some drawer. at best it sits on a shelf for a bit, but usually that space is more reserved for the prettier cards. the thank you note is just a mental checkmark to keep off the negative attitude you would have for not feeling appreciated.
contrary to its original intention, it seems as if the thank you note has come to achieve the exact opposite effect one would hope. not for the receiver, but for the giver. because it has become expected, the thank you note effectively voids any sense of true, free giving. it's not enough for the person to simply say "thank you." we expect the note. otherwise they are ungrateful and they just don't understand the sacrifices we made for them and the least they could do was sit down and write a little note and put it in the mail!
because it's really about us. it's really about them understanding that we have made a great sacrifice in some way through giving to them. i did something for you and you owe me this in proper fashion. anything less would be like the 9 lepers--so unchristian, so impolite. saying the words is actually the same way. we learn to say thank you from a very young age. so much so that when we don't people think we're rude.
just because you did something for someone does not mean that it is your right to receive a thank you. an expression of true thanks should come from the heart of genuine gratefulness, not customary response. and a gift freely given should not require thanks. a response much more truly apt like "de nada"--"it's nothing" rather than "you're welcome."
indeed i believe that any time a thanks is expected or even required, whatever was given was not given freely and is therefore less deserving of a true thanks. politeness has breeded disingenuineness.
or maybe i'm just an insensitive and ungrateful male. perhaps someone would care to correct me?