Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 10, 2013

02/10/2013 — Lee Ward: Thank-you notes: it’s the least you can do

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — When I was a child, my mother taught me when someone gives you a gift, or otherwise does something nice for you, it’s incumbent upon you to write that person a thank you note.

I loved to write thank you notes. It seemed like a classy, grown-up thing to do. It was the polite thing to do. It completed a cycle of communication, providing feedback to a person who had extended social graces to include you.

In current times, thank you notes, as well as other good behavior apparently, are outdated.

Philip Galanes, author of the book “Social Qs: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today,” recently appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” to talk about his project, which included comparing his answers to modern social dilemmas to answers provided by surveyed members of the public.

He chose which social dilemmas to address by combing through letters he’d received over his years as advice columnist for the New York Times.

There was a letter from a couple with nine grandchildren scattered around the country and ranging in age from 9 to 22. The grandparents consistently buy Christmas and birthday gifts for every grandchildren and not one has sent the grandparents a thank you note. The grandparents wondered what they should do.

Galanes suggested they speak to the parents and to the older grandchildren, letting them know it would be nice to receive acknowledgement of their gift. Galanes also said society may have evolved — or devolved — to the point that a gift-giver should not expect a note but could expect a phone call.

I’m not sure they can even expect that.

Galanes’ survey found older people, like me, were appalled by the lack of manners and suggested the grandparents start sending the grandchildren empty boxes for gifts.

I think that’s a hilarious, and perhaps slightly obnoxious, response to not receiving a thank you card. Maybe it’s not a polite response, though.

Young people saw no need to thank someone for a gift, noting that receiving a gift shouldn’t put the burden on them to do anything, not even thank the giver for it. One of the responses was, “If I have to write a thank you note, I’d rather not receive the gift.”

In the last few years, I’ve heard a lot of references to the entitlement members of the younger generation feel. I have refused to believe that, thinking insults from the older generation is the burden every group of young people must bear. My generation was insulted for the men’s long hair and the women’s short skirts and the loud rock music we all listened to.

Fashion and art change with the times and, to a degree, they should. They are meant to reflect society and are used by some historians to help us better understand that particular time period.

Young people’s failure to see the importance of thank you cards might seem minor, but it also says a great deal about society; it confirms the notion that the upcoming generation is ungrateful and has a sense of entitlement.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.