How To Write a Thank You Note

December 25, 2019 | 0 comments

Merry Christmas Friend,

We are no longer waiting for Christmas and are in the Christmas season! The 12 Days of Christmas run from December 25th until January 6th when we enter Epiphany.

Though, for most of the world, the Christmas season ends with Christmas. As a kid, I loved Christmas, but a bit of dread would sink in on December 26th. I knew that before I went back to school I needed to have thank you cards written for the presents I received.

Why does writing a thank you seem like such a chore?

This fall I was witness to a living parable. On Thursday afternoons, when needed, I am a substitute tutor to elementary school children. After their snack and an hour of tutoring, twelve children and twelve tutors gather for “club time.” We sing a song and then Ms. Debbie presents a Bible lesson.

On that day she shared when Jesus healed the ten lepers and only one thanked him. In the middle of her fun lesson she said, “Oh don’t let me forget that I have something for you when I’m done.” and went on with the lesson. A helpful fact at this point in the story is that Ms. Debbie’s husband owns a bakery.

True to her word, at the end of the lesson she opened a box that contained the most utterly adorable turkey cookies any child—or adult!—had ever seen. Squeals of joy as she handed each kid a cookie couldn’t be contained; even us tutors elbowed each other and marveled at the delightful cookies and scene. After she handed out the cookies, she counted the children sitting at her feet and can you believe it? There were ten.

She said, “Interesting, there are ten of you, just like there were ten lepers. And only one of you thanked me.”

Like King David when he realized that Nathan wasn’t talking about “some man,” we knew we were on holy ground because Ms. Debbie could not have orchestrated the punch line.

The importance of gratitude come to life.

Living on the field, there are many that we need to thank. And I will be honest, even now years into being on full-time support, I can feel a sigh in my soul when I open a monthly giving statement and see new names that need thanking. (I also feel selfish and a bit ashamed that this is my reaction at times.)

But a few simple practices can help you (and me) to thank them.

1—Make a list. If for Christmas or a birthday, make a list as you open the presents (or have someone else do this as you open them). For year-end giving, make a list of who gave what. If for other events (i.e. a teammate made a special meal), add write a thank you to your to-do list.

A list helps in two ways. First, what might have felt overwhelming now is concrete. Second, as you write the notes, you have the satisfying feeling of crossing names off and seeing the task shrink.

2—Make a plan. This is a simple, but necessary step. You might live in a part of the world where the postal system is simply not an option. What will work for you? If you can use physical mail, I encourage you to. Often, time is not urgent with a thank you. When someone opens their mailbox and sees an actual piece of mail that is not junk mail, it solidifies the thank you even more.

If you do not have any stamps for your home country, next time you are home, get some (or ask someone to send you a book of stamps . . . that you can thank them for, wink). When people are passing through and can take a letter or two with them, get in the habit of mailing a thank you. Email is also an option! Just make a plan on how you will thank people.

3—Get your supplies ready. If I have a stack of cards and a pen I like, once I get going, I keep going. Pro tip: have addresses handy; nothing derails me like not having addresses!

4—Write and Keep it simple. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. You are not writing a 500-word college essay. You are thanking someone for their gift. I found a great list of phrases if you’re not sure what to say.

  • State what they gave you.
  • State why you like it, need it, or appreciate it.
  • Affirm the relationship. (“It’s thanks to generous supporters like you that we are able to ______.”

5—Deliver the thank you. Seems obvious, but actually getting the thank yous to the post office, to your friends house, or to your teammates’s mom who is going to take to your passport country is a necessary step.

Writing thank you’s are more than a social obligation, they are a spiritual practice that fosters gratitude.

Like the one leper, thanking people builds a moment of reflection into a full life as you stop, turn, and say, “Thank you.”


Guess what time it almost is? Global Trellis Challenge time! The January Challenge will be announced next week complete with 30 prizes you could win and the generous sponsors who are helping to throw the biggest cross-cultural worker party! But first, maybe you could knock out some thank yous.

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Amy Young

Amy Young

Life enthusiast. Author. Sports lover. Jesus follower. Supporting Cross-cultural work.

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