When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book. I loved his intricate illustrations, the way he engaged the reader by asking questions, and above all, the fun way he taught about the importance of having nice manners. I was so excited to buy it for my kids and I’m happy that they enjoy it too. I think having good manners is so important. But sadly they seem to have gone by the wayside. People are so busy it’s as though it’s an excuse to forget about common courtesy. Each morning coming out of the train station I can’t tell you how many times the person in front of me doesn’t hold the door open. Likely not on purpose, they just don’t think to look back to see if someone else is there. Everyone is so “me” centric these days. Perhaps I’m extra sensitive to it because it’s engrained in me to say “please” and “thank you.”
I recently won a sweepstakes from Toys R Us. I was super excited not only because I didn’t even know that I entered, but because it was a big prize—and just in time for the holidays. Right after I won someone posted an article on Facebook about a local Chicago community who didn’t have enough presents for their holiday party due to a technical error. At the end of the article, the founder of the organization said they were looking for a Christmas miracle.
I thought, “This is something I was supposed to do. I can be their miracle.”
I’m always looking for ways to make a meaningful difference. And now I could. I contacted the woman at the organization and the first thing she wanted to know was how much was I giving? I was a bit put off but reminded myself it was for a good cause. When we hung up I realized she didn’t even thank me. It was the week before the party so I went to the post office that day to mail the gift card. I waited in line for over thirty minutes and spent $20 to overnight it so she’d have enough time to go shopping. I was excited to hear from her. I hoped maybe she’d even send a picture of the kids with their gifts. A few days went by. Then a week. Crickets.
After a month I figured I wasn’t going to hear from her. I had included a letter with my mailing address asking for a receipt. I tracked the package online and I saw that she signed for it. So at least I know she got it. But the nagging feeling of irritation has remained. I just wanted a simple thank you. I started feeling bad about myself for having this reaction. Being charitable shouldn’t come with strings attached. So I tried to figure out why it was bothering me so much. I’ve made many other donations and I didn’t care about a thank you other than a confirmation that my transaction went through. But I realize now it wasn’t so much about the thank you. It was about wanting to know that I made a difference. When I donate to a big charity I know they’ll put my contribution toward research or something of that sort. I never really have the opportunity to see the direct impact. In this instance I thought that I could. I wanted to know that the kids received their presents. That they didn’t go without over the holidays. That I made a difference in their lives by bringing a bit of joy and holiday magic. It was a local charity and therefore close to home. So I felt more personally invested.
I called the woman back the other day and politely asked if she could send me a receipt. She didn’t seem to remember who I was but said she was busy with x and y and would send it out the following week. I don’t know if I’ll ever get an acknowledgement. I’ll let my husband deal with that at tax time. I’m glad I was afforded the opportunity to make a difference and don’t have any regrets about it even though the outcome wasn’t what I had expected. But the situation just reminded me about the importance of acknowledging others. Whether their actions are big or small, sometimes the best gift is a simple thank you.