Gratitude Letter

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

One of our regular Trail Baboon readers and participants, Plain Jane, offered a comment on Saturday that has stayed with me all weekend.  She mentioned how wonderful it was to receive a written thank you from someone she had helped out in the past. Here’s most of what she wrote:

Fifteen years ago, Danny had returned to the Twin-Cities after finishing his degree at UCLA’s film school. The economy had tanked, and, of course, even if it hadn’t, the degree Danny had obtained wouldn’t necessarily make him a shoo-in for most job openings. I took pity on him, and offered him a job doing data entry into a computer system. He worked for me several months on a well-defined project. It was, at best, a menial job, but it provided him some income, a daily lunch, and probably most importantly, the chance to get out of his parents’ house.

His letter today took me by complete surprise. He has lived in Seattle since 2010, and I have had no contact with him since then.

Here’s his closing paragraph: “Margaret, when I reflect on the people I’ve been lucky to know during my life, you are unquestionably one of them. Please know that I will never forget your kindness to me.”

I’m touched, and gratified that some small gesture on my part has made a difference in Danny’s life. Be kind, you never know what small effort on your part will make a difference in someone’s life.

Every day we make hundreds of small decisions… most of which don’t seem that they will make any real impact on the world. At some point, though, we have each performed a kindness for which someone else is very grateful.

And in turn – we may each be thankful to someone else for an act of kindness – it might be something the person is not even aware of. When my son was in 6th grade, his experiences caused me to recall many details about my own 6th grade experiences. I ended up writing a long letter relating these memories to my 6th grade teacher, who had helped me out when I was the new girl at school. She was so moved by the letter that she eventually called me (being unable to write at that point), and we carried on a Christmas-card correspondence for years.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone who has performed an act of kindness could know the impact it has made?

Recall an act of kindness you have performed or received that is worthy of a gratitude letter. 


47 thoughts on “Gratitude Letter”

  1. Not sure what my participation will be this week, dear Baboons. Jury duty and then there is a pile of other stuff, some of which will be unpleasant.

    This morning I realized I was grateful for the work of David Bowie. Always trying something new, always with something to say

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This experience happened just before this past Christmas. My current job has close to two hundred construction workers on site. The toilet facilities are a row of a dozen outdoor portapotties. While making use of one, I found $120 in cash on the floor. I decided to make an effort to return the money to it’s owner. I made it known to quite a few of the various trades that I had found a certain amount of money and to claim it simply needed to identify the potty where it was found. No one ever claimed the money but everyone’s attitude toward me and my crew changed dramatically. Prior to this, we floor layers were being treated very poorly and it seemed as though everybody was angry at everyone else all the time. Now I get great cooperation and the morale on the whole site has improved.

    Liked by 9 people

  3. I was given the opportunity to work at an auto salvage yard by a friend who was a member of the family that owned and operated the salvage yard. My friend and her family, along with other people who worked there, made me feel welcome.

    At that time I was also doing substitute teaching and could use the part time job at the salvage yard as a source of employment on days when I wasn’t doing substitute teaching. I was more than 60 years old at the time and was not looking for a permanate job.

    My friend is no longer working at the salvage yard. However, I do have a way of contacting her and I could and should write her a letter thanking her for offering me work.


      1. I didn’t work at the salvage yard on the days when I did subbing. They could make use of me any time I was available and not subbing. That was good because subbing jobs come more frequently at certain times of the year and there are other times when subs aren’t needed.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Y’know, I’ve been so concerned about the word ‘selfish’ for so long that (and maybe I’m biased) I feel like I’ve pretty much given my entire life (personal and professional) to everyone else. As I’m nearing age 50, I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that maybe being happy and satisfied in life isn’t a horribly selfish thing. Now, to come up with a plan to change it…hmmmm…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the advice to young film makers from a well know film producer who made some very good films that were not big money makers. He said they should keep their minds open and seek to learn more about the world. Learning should be their main goal instead of gaining wealth and fame.


      1. For what it’s worth, Barb, this was sort of one of my resolutions for 2016: do our stuff first.

        It is all too easy to think our household can wait until the work projects and things for other people/groups get done, but somehow, they never are really done and gone.

        So far, things have been a bit more balanced.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. My first career was teaching grade 7-12 instrumental music in Carlton, MN. I lasted for 6 years, so my first 7th-grade class was my last senior class.

    My star pupil was a brilliant but nerdy kid who couldn’t raise his hand fast enough when, on the first day of band rehearsal in 7th grade, volunteered to play the bassoon. It turns out his father had played bassoon, so he wanted to play it as well.

    As the years went by, we teachers discovered that Dean was indeed a special student. Straight A’s, multi-talented, inquisitive, interested in computers (this was back in the early 80s) and mature for his age.

    As he approached his senior year and had turned into an outstanding musician (All-state Orchestra or band, can’t remember), he asked me about college possibilities. Most kids from Carlton didn’t go to college, so he’d set his sights a bit low and figured maybe UMD or the U of M Twin Cities.

    I told him with his intellect, musical talent, English and writing skills, and desire to learn, he shouldn’t limit himself to a certain level of school. I told him “You could get into any school in the country–Harvard, Stanford, MIT, any place he wanted.

    He looked at me agape, as if no one had ever told him to think anywhere close to that grandly. But he applied to several prestigious schools, including Harvard, and ultimately decided on Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He earned a double major in Computer Science and Computer Engineering.

    I think it was after his first year of college, he sent me a note thanking me for encouraging to make that “great leap” from the isolated little backwater of Carlton into the entire world. He said I was his inspiration all through school since I pushed him to excel in music, and it seemed to have carried over to everything else.

    I didn’t have a long, illustrious teaching career so I don’t know if thank yous from students are commonplace. But teachers always wonder what sort of impact they had on their students. I like to think I was, at least, a small positive influence on most of my students, but Dean validated those entire six years with one simple, heartfelt letter of appreciation.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 9 people

      1. Thanks, wessew. The last I heard, many years ago, was that Dean had graduated from Carnegie Mellon and was enjoying a career in the computer field. I hope he found something he truly loves to do.


        Liked by 1 person

    1. My last year teaching second grade, the last day of the year, I arrived at school to a big chalk sign on the sidewalk…I don’t think it said thank you, but it certainly was implied — or at least I took it that way. Don’t remember that the crusty crabby old principal was impressed, however.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It feels to me as if I’ve written only a few letters of thanks, which is not a happy thing to say. But as I reflect on this it seems I have tried to thank people in person for the many kindnesses that they did for me. When Baboons rescued me from the tree that dropped in my back yard I thanked them many times, as I should have, given how hard they worked to save me at a time I could do very little for myself.

    I wrote a letter once that was close to a “gratitude letter.” I could more accurately call it a letter of appreciation.

    I was painfully shy during my high school years. As I remember things, I was afraid to speak to two kinds of people back then: the boys and the girls. The two girls I was especially afraid to talk to were Katie and Rita Bappe, cousins who were among the prettiest girls in our class.

    I treasure one particular memory of Rita. One afternoon in December all students in our junior high school were herded into an auditorium to listen to the school choir perform a Christmas concert. At one point, Rita stepped forward to deliver a solo on “What Child Is This.” That is the tune of “Greensleeves,” a hauntingly beautiful tune I had never before heard. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this girl and her song. It seemed I had never before been in the presence of such shattering, perfect beauty. I left that assembly a changed person, someone who had a new sense of life’s possibilities. And of course, I didn’t say a word to Rita about this. Hell, back then I couldn’t have asked her about how she was doing with her fetal pig dissection or her English assignment. I sure couldn’t tell her she had changed me forever by being so perfectly beautiful.

    Forty years later I acquired Rita’s email address. By then I was not so tongue-tied. I wrote a letter trying to tell her how wonderful she had been that afternoon. I thanked her for expanding my awareness of beauty. That letter led to other letters and then to phone calls. Rita is now a dear friend. We’ve spent hours sharing memories of a past that could have been richer had I not been so awkward.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Have not written enough thank you notes. Many I could no longer write, the recipients having died. That happens at my age Been thinking for a couple years of 1) making my own thank you cards to send and 2) sending some honest thank you’s to a few people with whom I clashed.

    Now and then, well rarely, get a nice letter from former students. More often get the opposite, still rarely. Recently received a fun one on facebook. A former student of mine who recently moved back to the Duluth area was in a beauty parlor. She and the beautician discovered they both graduated from THHS. they were talking about teachers and were laughing about me. So they took a picture in the mirror of them together in the midst of a perm. The implication was that their laughter was mostly a compliment. But go ahead and laugh it me, world. I earned it fair and square.

    (At B and N on their free wifi.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. so you gave up on the bozo internet comanies down there that you had problems with?
      good to hear you re alive and kicking.
      its funny that so many of the letters i think of are to teachers. i have a daughter who has decided i think to become an elementary teacher she love little kids. i have always discouraged my kids from going into teaching because my mom sister wife exwife have all just biched and biched about the problems with teaching, but with this kid i am not going to do that. she is perfect for teaching. and it for her.
      i am thankful to 3 or 4 teachers although i didnt send them notes. 2 of them i am still in contact with. one english one science


  8. Rise and Say Thanks Baboons!

    I could/should write many, many of these kinds of letters. My family and I are were blessed with many “Angels” who helped us care for my dad during the long years of his illness, and who encouraged me and my siblings along the way. Here is a list:

    * My Aunt Donna and Uncle Jim who were like second parents, who added stability and excitement to our lives, and to whom I am ever grateful. Where would we have been without them?

    *Our neighbor Harry, a retired minister, who helped us so much, repaired and remodeled the house, taught us to play cribbage, and who would miraculously appear at the door just as Mom was melting down.

    *Joe Brice, my music teacher/Sunday School teacher (6 years!) whose 4 children I baby sat. He was so encouraging and kind to me.
    He also ran a great band program.

    *Tom Balm, the minister who spent hours with my dad, and who provided wise counsel to us all.

    There are many more. But these five people were in the trenches with me/us. People like these gave me a hopeful, optimistic outlook about the kindness people can display in spite of all the negative behavior that is out there.

    Thanks to you all.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. I have a question. What would the Baboons do in the situation of someone phoning them up to ask a favor after years of treating said baboons horriibly. How far does forgiveness go?


    1. I should add that the favor involves the Baboons doing something fairly simple that would enable the requestee to continue to work in their profession.


      1. I guess it would depend on what exactly the favor was. A job reference? I suppose I would write the reference letter, even if I couldn’t be sincerely enthusiastic. There might be a certain satisfaction is turning the person down, but in the long run I think it would just perpetuate the bad feelings, and maybe engender some bad karma.

        But I would probably procrastinate for a long time because I would just hate being put in that position.


      2. If it isn’t anything that would make me feel unethical, I would likely go ahead. If it was a job reference, well, I would be honest in the reference with regards to that person’s work. Though I would wonder why that person is approaching me if they felt so poorly about me up until now…


    2. I’d like to answer this question, but it is so hypothetical that I feel the need for details you would prefer to keep to yourself.

      In general, I’ve been forgiving when people have wronged me. I might do a favor for someone who had done that but only if the favor they requested does not involve me compromising my own standards. For example, if they want a recommendation, I would give it but would not overstate my endorsement.

      If someone from my past wanted help but I believed they had hurt a friend or behaved unethically, my response would be different. I usually forgive mistreatment of me, just as I can overlook weakness that doesn’t violate my core ethics. But I have rebuffed people who had crossed those lines.

      It sounds like this person has not done that. They mistreated you. They don’t deserve your help now, but if you treat them better than they deserve I think you might feel good about that later.


    3. what if you were honest and told her that you were hurt but being treated horribly all these years. if she is asking to lie for her forget it. if you put your honest feelongs down wotuld it squelch the job? maybe she should get off her me me me routine and be aware that how you treat people does come back to bite you. i cant imagine you would ever be asking her for a favor down the road. can you think up a big one now and test her. that would be fun


  10. I often say “thank you” face to face, of course, and send thank-you cards for various kindnesses. The sort of letters that PJ and Chris received are a different sort of letter, though – ones that show that years later the kindness has not been forgotten. I haven’t written any letters like that, but will give some more thought to who the recipient(s) might be if I did.

    I’ve had a couple of people contact me on Facebook who mentioned things I done for them years ago, but nothing very significant. One was a woman who had worked for me when I managed a bookstore, who told me I had always been helpful and patient when she was having trouble with her sales recaps. So it’s good to know I wasn’t hated when I was The Boss.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Husband and i have figured out a really clever intervention for this issue that the person in question will hate but will learn from if they decide to follow our directives,. I will report any further developments.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. My brother got a letter like PJ’s from a friend who we took in for awhile. He was especially appreciative of what can best be described as my mom “mothering” him – being the steadying hand and steady adult that he had been lacking for a lot of his life until then. He admitted that he hadn’t completely kept out of trouble, but that when it came to it, he thought of my parents when he needed an example reminder of “good parenting” once he became a father.

    I have tried to extend thanks for kindnesses as well – sometimes months or years later when I can truly appreciate the impact: the friend who had just the right words and advice when I was out of work and needed an “atta girl” and reassurance that I had more to give than what I had thus far put onto my resume, the former classmate who offered a kindness and sympathy the first day I had braces (he was one of the “cool kids” and I was not…and he still came over at lunch, recognizing the tell tale signs in my soft food choices, to let me know it would hurt less soon – and if I played it right I could still eat some of the “no no” foods if I did it right…), the English teacher I have reconnected with now as an adult. I have been thinking I owe another of my high school teachers a thank you – started a note to her and it got overly wordy. Since she was my AP English teacher, there is extra (internal) pressure to get it “just right.” I think I need to move that one back to the top of my “to do” list for this week. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I just last week wrote a thank you note for the first time in too many years (thank you emails, on the other hand, are frequent response to visits and dinners). In response to my 2015 “Annual Report” aka Christmas letter, Robert Bly sent me a copy of his “My Sentence was a Thousand Years of Joy” translated into Norwegian. A beautiful little book that will challenge my primitive norsk, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

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