Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Miss Manners---Or Not

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Well, I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately. Not on my work in progress, mind you, but on thank you notes. Hand written thank you notes.

My friends and neighbors have been incredibly generous to me and my family ever since the baby was born and I’ve been anxious to let them know how much I appreciate it. And that is where the thank you notes come in.

Of course, some would say, “Why don’t you just email? Text? Tell them when you see them next?”

I don’t know. I suppose I could. But there is just something about a handwritten thank you note that makes me feel good inside. Somehow I think that when they receive my thank you note, they will know that I spent time thinking about their gift, and really wanted to tell them how much I appreciated it and how glad I am that we’re friends and neighbors. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I think in today’s world, much of the manners and things that used to be commonplace, seem out of place. When I was growing up, we were always taught to call an adult Mr. or Mrs. and would never dream of calling them by their first names. Doors were held open for a lady and words like “excuse me,” “please,” and “thank-you,” were heard often. Sometimes, when I look around at our society, I miss those small niceties. It’s not all gone, however.

My son worked a summer job this past summer that included a lot of backbreaking labor. He spent hours in a muddy ditch, under a scorching sun, digging sprinkler trenches. When it was my day to pick him up, he was always dirty from head to toe. Thankfully, for the sake of my van’s upholstery, we were in a car pool with three other people, so I didn’t have to pick him up every day. One particular day, when I thought the ditch digging was over and it was my turn to pick up, I watched the four kids in our carpool come toward me, looking like the Swamp Thing rising from the mud, and I groaned out loud. I glanced at my van’s cloth seats and the carpet underneath, and I knew neither of them would ever recover. The van door opened, and it was the moment of truth. The first two kids climbed in noisily, stomping their muddy feet on my van’s carpet as they did so, and I cringed, trying not to think of the mess that was now inside. My son got into the front seat, but before he did, he stomped off his work boots outside of the van, and then gingerly climbed in with a, “sorry, Mom.” But it was the last boy that surprised me. He had a little jacket in his hands and he spread it over the seat before he got in. He sat very still through the entire ride, as if he didn’t want to move and get any more mud anywhere in my car, and when he got out, he said over his shoulder, “thanks for the ride!” His actions impressed me because he cared. He cared about not getting my car dirty. He cared enough to thank me for picking him up. And I was grateful because he had obviously been taught manners and it showed.

Another example was when, on a cold day, my daughter had forgotten her coat and while she was walking back to school from her seminary building, a young man saw her shivering and offered her his coat. Again, I was grateful for the manners and care he showed my daughter.

But, on the other hand, when we were going out to dinner as an extended family, we had to wait to be seated. It was crowded in the waiting area and there wasn’t a seat to be found for my mother in law so she could sit down and wait. She stood there, for quite a while, and we were grateful that a seat was going to open up for her after a couple was finally ushered to their table. Unfortunately, before she could sit down a young man on a cell phone jumped in front of her and sprawled out so there wasn’t room for anyone but him and his cell phone. Can you see the look on my face at that moment?

So perhaps I am old-fashioned and there are more people like the young man at the restaurant in the world. Maybe no one will appreciate my thank you notes. Perhaps they will throw them out without even opening them. But I believe that there is someone, somewhere who will know what that little card that I am giving them means---I care about you, I loved your gift, and I’m glad we’re friends, thank you! And while there are certainly other means of transmitting that message nowadays, there is just something about telling someone thank you with a thank you note that is extra special to me---a throwback to the “olden” days, I suppose, but something I’d like to hold on to. And I’d rather be like the young men who showed care and concern for others, even in something as small as caring about a mess in someone’s van and thanking them for a ride, or offering a coat to a cold girl. It’s that sort of thing that brings a smile and a warmth to my heart. Like all the gifts my family has received, those small niceties were a gift as well. So to those people, I say thank you! (Your note is in the mail.)


At 9/18/2008 4:43 PM, Blogger Just_Me said...

I'm terrible about thank you notes. I'll call and say thank you, but getting the note in the mail is usually a deal breaker.

I do appreciate manners, but thank you letters is one thing I'll forgive for a phone call. :o)

At 9/18/2008 5:16 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

I offered my seat to a woman on the rental car shuttle yesterday and she about bit my head off. But I don't think that's the norm.

At 9/18/2008 5:43 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Julie, you're so right about the difference that a little courtesy and appreciation makes. Great post, and I definitely need to write some thank you notes to the people who helped us with the move!

Jeff, whew, I can't believe that lady reacted so ungraciously. Most women would be very appreciative--I certainly would be! I think it's very classy when a guy offers a woman his seat on a crowded bus or train.

At 9/18/2008 6:01 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

My mom raised me to send out thank you cards promptly, unfortunately, I am terribly absent-minded, so I often forget.

Get this: we sent a niece a birthday card, and she sent back a thank you card for that! (Her mom is on top of things, too.) I thought maybe we should her a thank you note for her thank you card, but maybe that's going too far. =)

At 9/18/2008 6:03 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jeff, I'm with Stephanie, it is so classy when a guy offers his seat to a woman. It's too bad that lady reacted like she did. I hope it's not the norm!

Just_Me I guess the main thing is the thank you, really, and I'm so glad you appreciate manners like I do. :-)

Stephanie, I'm so glad your move went so smoothly. :)

At 9/18/2008 6:05 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jon, how would you word that? This is a thank you note to thank you for your thank you note? LOL

I wish I was as on top of things as that mother is. Maybe someday. :)

At 9/18/2008 8:44 PM, Blogger Sandra said...

Thank you for this post. I think that thank you's in general are missing in society. However, I work at the highschool and love watching the students that do have manners. It is always nice when they say thank you and all I have done is punched the button on the computer that allows them to eat lunch, or written them a late admit slip to their class.

At 9/19/2008 9:37 AM, Blogger Just_Me said...

Shout out to all my random LDS neighbors in Annapolis Maryland!

I have an investigator in your area who needs a friendly face to greet her. Does anyone reading this blog happen to be in the Annapolis ward?

Maybe? Please?

Know someone who is?????

----- Back to regularly scheduled blog-------

At 9/19/2008 9:49 AM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Thank you notes are definitely the way to go. First of all, they are permanent and don't get deleted like an email or forgotten like a verbal thank you. I keep most of the thank yous or card that I receive. I decided one day that I'll go through and read them all ;)

At 9/21/2008 2:00 AM, Blogger Nancy Campbell Allen said...

I think thank you cards are a lost art. I saw a magazine article a few years ago (wish I'd kept it!) and it showed photos of notes and cards written in years past. They were just beautiful, and I agree with Heather- they last and you can keep them.

Great blog! Inspires me to get on all those thank you cards I've been meaning to write lately.

At 9/21/2008 7:23 AM, Anonymous Floyd the Wonderdog said...

I offered a lady a seat once and she bit my head off. She told me that she didn't need any special considerations just because she was a woman. I replied that I didn't do it because she was a lady, I did it because I was a gentleman.

At 9/26/2008 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She should have sat on cell phone young man ...


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