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May 2015

A small thank-you makes a big difference!

During my visit to North Carolina for my granddaughter’s third birthday I had the chance to sit in
the upstairs gallery of the gymnastic studio and watch this petite whirlwind and her classmates run, Handwrittennote
climb, tumble and spin their way to pure enjoyment.  

At several points during the class, when the instructor had assisted my granddaughter in some way, I heard her adorable, three-year-old voice say, “Thank you.”  Her expressions were priceless, and memorable, especially in a culture that has all but forgotten the value and meaning of gratitude.

I’m proud to say her cousins have learned the same graciousness. My sons and their wives are passing on something that was taught to them, and it is something that was certainly handed on to me by my parents, especially my mom.

I was raised during the time of Emily Post manners, which meant white gloves when you went shopping, tasteful clothes for Mass and cultivating the now lost art of the thank you note.  What I learned is that manners, and expressions of gratitude, are more than just trite social mores.  They are opportunities to express respect and appreciation of others, to build relationships, and to be reminded that we are not the center of anyone’s universe except our own. 

Imagine my delight when I discovered that Emily Post’s great-great-grandson, Daniel Post Senning, is carrying on Emily’s legacy. He writes, in The Costco Connection, “Good manners are about more than fulfilling bare-minimum social obligations. They are an opportunity for us to connect to the people in our lives in a meaningful way. In an increasingly informal digital world, continuing to pull out pen and paper is a way to distinguish yourself. The handwritten thank-you note speaks volumes simply as a medium and sends the message that you care enough to invest yourself personally in acknowledging another.”

In my work as a writer and columnist, one of my greatest pleasures has been the notes I’ve received from readers, some of whom have stayed in contact and who I consider as friends. I have kept all the notes I’ve received during the past 20 years and I take them out every once in awhile and re-read them. The thank-yous I've received for my writing
give me the boost of encouragement I need sometimes when my spirit is lagging. I am grateful for them and the people who wrote them.

One of my greatest regrets is losing the envelope with the return address of a reader who sent me the very meaningful gift of a dishtowel from the Sunrise Café in Ortley Beach. I tore my office, at home and at work, apart looking for it because I wanted to send a thank-you note. I actually lost sleep over it.  

Perhaps, she will read this column and know that I absolutely loved the towel and have it hanging in my kitchen. It is especially meaningful now that the café is gone, a victim of Sandy, and we are forced to sell our home in Ortley Beach.

You just never know how much a handwritten note, or seemingly small gift, will mean to someone.

"Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father ... " Ephesians 5:20


Image from where there's great article on making thank-you notes a fun activity for kids.

Taking Jesus with us on the ride of life

Children in church can be both a blessing and a challenge. And from my vantage point in the choir loft, Prayer-beads-baby-1024x549 I've seen it all. But nothing tops the Sunday when a young family with several young children in tow took a place in one of the first pews, right in front of the entire congregation, seating their most gregarious child on the end.


I noticed when they first walked down the aisle that this little boy, maybe five years old, was carrying rosary beads in his hands. As a mother of six sons I winced a bit, remembering even rosary beads can be an unintended weapon in the hands of a young child.

At first he was fine, running the beads in and out of his hands, as if he was actually praying. But before long, he had discovered the “rosary bead spin.” Propelled by the weight of the crucifix, the beads circled faster and faster in his rotating hand until he lept out into the aisle with what looked like a small propeller in his little fist and yelled, “Hang on Jesus, we’re going for a ride!”

A delighted laugh rolled through the congregation and even the celebrant laughed out loud.

On the way home from Mass, with a foolish grin on my face, I considered how the whole scene was like a metaphor for our daily lives. With so many ups and downs, and things often spinning out of control, any of us could be the one yelling, “Hang on, Jesus!”

The image came to mind again recently when I was visiting my son and his family in North Carolina.

My almost three-year-old granddaughter loves to climb, jump, swing, and do just about anything a nervous grandmother would hate, and my son happily obliges her.

One day, he had her by the ankles and was spinning her around and around as fast as he could turn in a circle. She was screaming and I was screaming, except she was laughing and I was hollering “Stop!” 

I was worried to death that my son’s hands would slip or he would trip over his own feet or a million other scenarios only an anxious grandmother could imagine, but all my granddaughter wanted was, “Do it again, daddy!”

“How could she want to do that again?” I thought to myself, but I realized she wasn’t afraid because she trusts him completely.

On my long drive home to New Jersey, I began to think about Mary and her unfailing trust in God.

Mary could have easily thought that her life was beginning to spin out of control when the Angel Gabriel visited her to tell her she was going to have a child, and not any child, but God’s child.

Surely, before that moment, Mary had plans for how her life was going to unfold. I don’t imagine her plans included a visit by an angel, or giving birth in a stable, or following her son to the cross, perhaps remembering Simeon’s words that the “a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”

How many times throughout her life did Mary have to consciously put her trust in God?

How many times in our lives do we need to do the same thing, believing God is walking with us through some loss or illness or struggle, either our own or that of someone we love or for whom we care?

Certainly, the next time I feel like my life is spinning out of control, I will remember the Rosary, both for Mary and for one little boy who is a philosopher at heart!