'Tis the season to be thankful.
Well, actually, if you follow the social graces, thankfulness should last all year long. From birthdays to Christmas, graduation and beyond, any time you get a present or are the recipient of a good deed, show your appreciation via a thank-you note.
"Everybody has a choice to give a gift or not," said Ali Lauren Spizman, 19, an Atlanta native and the author of The Thank You Book for Kids. "The purpose of a thank-you note is to acknowledge what they do. It's good to let them know that you care about them. It shows that you are a kindhearted individual and thoughtful."
Ms. Spizman, a freshman telecommunications major at Indiana University, said in a telephone interview from her dorm that her book was a way to share the message that saying thanks doesn't have to be a chore.
When Carl Jenkins 18, graduated from Thomson High School last year, he was thinking that the notes he had to write in response to his graduation gifts were going to be a pain.
"I knew it was necessary," said Carl, a freshman English major at Reinhardt College in Waleska, Ga. "I wished it wasn't. I guess it was teenage boy laziness."
By the time he had finished hand-writing his thank-yous, he'd concluded that conveying his gratefulness wasn't so bad.
"They took out time to get a gift for me, I could take some time to thank them," he said. "When I wrote the letters, it helped me realize all that I had gotten and had to be thankful for, and how many people took time to think about me and get me something."
Thinking about the givers is what the thank-you note is all about, Ms. Spizman said. In fact, even if the gift is a little lame, recognizing that the person did something nice for you is a great way to get the thank-you note written.
"If you didn't like the gift, focus on how much you think of the person, how nice they are," she said.
Actually, thank-yous aren't just about a gift.
"I was nominated for a scholarship here (at Indiana University) ... I didn't get it, but I wrote a thank-you note to the woman who nominated me for it,'' Ms. Spizman said. "You can write a note to teachers or to people who've helped you out. You want to keep these connections."
Even if you feel that you can't write a perfect thank-you note, you should try anyway.
"Not everybody can write thank-you notes, sometimes you forget, but any way you can show your appreciation, then you should do that," she said. "That just makes you a better person."
It also makes the cycle of giving complete, said Carl, who received one memorable thank-you note from a 3-year-old after giving a birthday present.
"Her mom wrote it," he said. "When I read it, it made me feel good to know how much she appreciated and enjoyed the present I'd given her. It just kind of makes you feel more glad that you did something for somebody.
"Not enough people do say 'Thank you' for what they've been given and the blessings they've received in life," he continued. "They feel good in getting it (but) the people that gave it to them feel better when they know how thankful the person is for getting it."
Although the etiquette experts would urge most thank-you notes to be written within two weeks of the good gesture, there is no statute of limitations on gratefulness, Ms. Spizman said.
"If you get past a month and say, 'I didn't write a thank-you note,' still write one or call," she said. "It's never too late to write a thank-you note."
Teen Board member Alana Long contributed to this article.
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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