Even though my youngest, Drew at 2 ½, is still in the “parallel play” stage he is beginning to be very attached to friends.
In the mornings, he will sit in his crib asking, “See Noah? See Connor? See Logan? See Evan?” Even after just departing from a playdate, Drew will bombard us with these questions. These friends dominate his thoughts, words and questions from morning until night.
Currently, one of his buddies is visiting grandparents for almost 3 weeks. Drew has continued to ask for him day after day and calls his name as we drive by his street. He clearly misses regular sand box meet ups, walks around the neighborhood & building train tracks together. So yesterday, when a postcard arrived from this friend, Drew was smitten & a little speechless. He studied the writing, memorized the details of the picture on the front. “Captivated” would be an understatement.
Writing and sending letters may be archaic these days and potentially a thing of the past. However, I see something in this practice that
still moves me. The time to hand-write words of gratitude, to say thank you for a thoughtful gesture or kindness offered, taking a moment to write out the feelings you often leave unsaid. . .these actions are the building blocks of relationship. In our faith paths, no doubt many have listed moments of gratitude, times where naming God’s goodness has reminded us of God’s faithfulness. We journal and write prayers, finding freedom in writing and tangibly connecting with our unseen God.
Some may believe that thank you notes are an unnecessary hassle and bother—especially after big events like a wedding or childbirth. For me, I could barely keep my family fed and house generally picked up, let alone have the mental bandwidth to write coherent words to another after childbirth. Despite all the other pressing “to-do’s,” taking time to sit down with my boys and write notes is a practice I commit to. For my youngest, I pen the message itself and he scribbles elaborate “scenes” with crayons, clear only to him. As my eldest, a kindergartener, gets more comfortable with seeing himself as a writer and illustrator, he pens long notes, clapping out syllables and breathing phonics to himself. All of the effort, the repetition, the time spent, though, is worth it.
It is my hope that through this practice they are reminded that the friend, grandparent or neighbor is valued. That their generosity and friendship deserve gratitude and effort. This practice is not one that God handed down to Moses on Mt. Sinai, carved in stone, “Thou Shalt Write Notes to Friends and Express Gratitude to Others.” Offering gratitude not out of obligation, but rather, sincerity, moves us into deeper relationship with others. Helping my boys voice gratitude in their writing, in their conversations and through their prayers will hopefully lead them to be men that will one day value open sharing too.
Shauna Niequist writes, “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” May we be parents that live into gratitude, no matter the season. And then seek to practice this with our children as
well knowing that God calls us to deep love. — Christine Gough