“I returned my RSVP card telling my brother that I could not attend my niece’s wedding. Immediately, I checked out the online wedding registry of the bride and purchased a set of dishes on her list.
Would you believe I still haven’t received a thank you note from the bride and groom?
What about when parents have a christening service, a party afterwards and guests bring presents to the house? Should the proud parents write thank you notes to everyone who brought a present?
Or how about a child who celebrates their bar or bat mitzvah at age 13? Is the teen responsible for writing a thank you note to everyone who gave a present in honor of this lifecycle event?
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Are we are living in an age today where traditional etiquette has come to an end?
Religion has all sorts of situations when it comes to lifecycle events which are celebratory as well as those that focus on mourning. What is the proper protocol for expressing gratitude to a family or individual who attends an event, brings a gift or provides extra effort to help the family put on the event? Moreover, are contemporary methods of communication beyond the traditional handwritten thank you note acceptable today?
My experience is that there may be at times a disconnect between generations as to whether a thank you note is still necessary. Some have told me that with the millennial generation, texting a thank you is appropriate or even sending an email should be adequate today. I cannot say how many email cards I receive inviting me to a wedding or some other religious event. If that is fine, then isn’t a text or an email appropriate as a thank you note?
In previous years, the standard practice has been - and to a large degree still is - to write a handwritten note. It seems to me, however, that we are living in a time when many formalities of etiquette have gone by the wayside. Is that a good thing? Do we really need to preserve the tradition of hand written notes for religious events?
For today’s young people, writing by hand has increasingly become a lost art. In fact, the art of writing a thank you note itself seems to be almost treated as if it were an unnecessary burden in our fast moving society. Let’s face it, young people today favor texting and, to a lessor degree, emailing in general. Baby boomers have converted to technology and use computers, tablets and cell phones to communicate with the world.
Is this drop off in hand written notes due to technology? Or is it because people are so busy they just do not take the time to write a thank you note? Maybe some are just kind of lazy about this time honored practice and feel it isn’t necessary anymore.
The broader issue here is that with religious events, people want to feel that their efforts and their generosity are acknowledged by the folks who receive their gifts. The underlining issue is about demonstrating mutual respect for the well intentioned gift giver. Is that too much to ask even from the young today who react to other tasks in a blink of an eye?
Saying thank you in a religious setting is not only about lifecycle events, but can relate to a wider set of issues that revolve around basic courtesy and regard for one’s neighbor. It is a nice gesture to write a thank you note to a child’s religious school teacher or clergy. Sure, they receive a salary or a stipend for their services, but should that be a reason not to teach one’s child to express an appropriate note of thanks for someone else’s work at the end of the term?
I remember one instance when a congregant lost a spouse. The synagogue’s caring committee provided food for the ritual of mourning and prayer services in the home during a week of bereavement. That individual wrote a thank you note to the entire committee for their work and devotion. It is not just a social ritual. A thank you note also expresses an affirmation for the values for the faith tradition and the fellow congregants who live it every day.
It is about honoring community and preserving the dignity of those who serve above and beyond for the benefit of someone during a difficult time in their lives.
Yes, quite often the little things such as writing a thank you note can make a big difference in maintaining relationships and showing common decency between not only people of the same faith tradition but also between folks from outside of the religious community who are invited to participate in lifecycle events.
Let the millennial and the generation Xers and the baby boomers go out and buy some stationary, stamps and a decent pen. Sit down and write a few notes and see the reaction we receive from the recipient of our notes.
It might just shed light that the old traditions have a new meaning today for more than writing thank you notes.