Why I’m doing something I don’t like doing today.

Today, the Acuff family will be writing thank you notes.


Because we’re an amazing family prone to doing beautiful family activities like this. We make a big bowl of popcorn, put on some positive music and then have a fancy gratitude party. We’ll probably put it on Instagram and then maybe pin it with a plucky headline like “7 ways to be grateful!”

Only, that’s not even a little true. I don’t like writing thank you notes. My kids don’t either.

I suppose there are some people out there who have naturally generous hearts. The minute they are given a gift they’ve already catalogued it and written a long, flowing thank you note. Probably in calligraphy.

I don’t personally feel that way. Life moves so quickly that I often fail to thank people along the way. I get selfish and distracted. I focus on me and miss the many wonderful things many wonderful people have done for me. I get lost in narcissism, receiving ten gifts at Christmas and writing 0 notes.

I’ve discovered something in the last few years. Gratitude is learned or lost.

As a parent you have this amazing window to teach your kids to be grateful. To get them to connect a gift they receive to gratitude they give. To strike down the roots of entitlement before they have a chance to dig too deep. Want a grateful 16 year old? Teach a 6 year old gratitude and give him 10 years to practice.

Don’t miss this moment. If you’ve got kids, have them write a few thank you notes. If you don’t, write some yourself.

I don’t like doing it. I’m not going to pretend gratitude flows naturally from my heart like some deep well. It doesn’t. It takes practice for me. Selfishness comes easily, gratitude takes practice.

Practice today.





About Author

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff


  1. Matt McWilliams has a Thank You movement that I read about on his blog. After reading it I started carrying some blank notes to work and when the need arises, I hand write a thank you or note of encouragement. It has made a huge difference. There is so much power in a hand written note! Great idea to train up our next generation of thank you revolutionaries.

  2. Jon I’m reading this from a different angle. For some reason, this morning I remembered Jeff ‘s “Do the hard thing” comment from “Wrecked” and then I’m reading this. I seem to have lived my life by doing whatever I feel like and flying by the seat of my pants. Your post is confirming for me that I need to get in there and get some stuff done. Life is short. Thanks Jon

  3. Katie D.

    Great idea! I was raised to write thank-you notes and have continued doing it. My fellow preschool teacher and I both write thank-you notes for any gifts we receive, including drawings made for us by our students. Apparently, it is unusual, because one of the parents commented on it in a postive way. In my experience, there are more people that don’t than do write thank-you notes . . . sadly, it’s becoming a lost art 🙁

  4. I guess gratitude requires some discipline. Never saw it that way. Wow.

    It makes sense about the kid thing. It’s like teaching your one year old to say “thank you.” It shouldn’t stop their. They said it, not it’s time to show it.

  5. Randy smith

    I was just thinking about that very thing these last few days since Christmas! Gotta git ‘er done!

  6. Isabelle baker

    I tweeted “gratitude is learned or lost!”

    Pretty much sums it up! I also carry blank note cards with STAMPS already on the envelopes. Not because I’m awesome. But because I want to encourage and thank people.

    I DO like the sound of your note writing party. However, I’m sure I’d move over to the couch to GET MORE comfy to write…and nod off. LOL

    Thank you!

  7. Karen B.

    I’m really proud that this year we gave more than we got. Consequently, we do not owe any thank you cards. I look forward to the opportunity for me and my family to be thankful this year-but not thank you cards. Have a nice day-we’re meeting the cousins at the beach.

  8. I have a blog all about writing thank you notes! It does take some practice to get into the habit of writing them.

    I’ve written a post with tips and examples for writing Christmas thank you notes that you may find helpful: http://www.tonsofthanks.com/writing-christmas-thank-notes-examples-tips-faq/

  9. I grew up writing thank you notes and I teach my children to do the same. My kids are 6 &1/2, 4 and 1 month old. My first grader writes her own thank you notes and draws a picture, my 4 y/o dictates them to me and then he decorates them and I write them for the baby. People always seem pleasantly surprised by them. We even write them to the teachers of our extracurricular activities/classes like swim lessons and dance. It’s important to teach kids to thank people for their time and lessons in addition to getting birthday/holiday gifts.

  10. Daniel Decker

    Love this!

  11. Heather

    I had to chuckle. Not 30 minutes ago I handed my boys thank you cards to finish writing before lunch.

  12. “Gratitude is either learned or lost”. So true! Even in your 30s!! It’s a good thing we have children to teach these lessons to, or we’d all lose them ourselves.

  13. You write thank-you notes. I write apology notes. Looks like we had different years. 😉

  14. Andrea

    My parents used to make me write thank you notes. My aunt once told my mom she always enjoyed buying me presents because I wrote thank you cards and she knew I appreciated it. My children are young but we’re going to start those fill in the blanks thank you cards this year.

  15. Hey Jon

    I am so glad that I am not the only heartless, ungrateful human on this planet 😉 hehehe #HUGS

    Thank you for a warm and witty post about the importance of gratitude. I have struggled with this emotion for a long time too, but have only recently discovered the myriad benefits of leading a life that is fueled by this emotion.

    Thanks for your honest (and humorous) letter.


  16. Lisa H.

    So true! I started my children writing thank-you notes before they could talk. (Taught them to sign ‘thank you’ with their hands) The habit has not left them though some of them are now young adults.
    Model it to your kids by writing THEM thank-you notes that they receive in the mail. Then they really get the sense of how it feels to receive sincere gratitude in the mail (it’s worth the few dollars of postage!) and then watch them go at it on behalf of others!
    That feeling does not wear off.

    Thanks for this very encouraging post!

  17. I don’t allow myself to put a gift away until I write the Thank You card. That keeps me from forgetting!

  18. I decided my “theme” for the year is gratefulness, so this really resonates with me right now. I love that quote at the end “Selfishness comes easy, gratitude takes practice.”

  19. Melissa

    I have a little guy who is 4 and has a significant disability. He can barely talk, isn’t potty trained, and requires quite a lot of care. He is the most thankful kid I know! He says ca coo (thank you) for every little thing I do for him and often follows it with a kiss and a hug. I am learning a lot about thankfulness from him. Yes, I’m a tired Mama, but if he can be that thankful for simple, routine things, so can I!

  20. A while back I bought a little post-it style pad of thank you note templates. They cost about a dollar from a throw away bin during a new year sale but have been the most amazing purchase. They have little tick boxes where you can specify additional things like “shouldn’t have”, “made my day” “forever grateful” and “my hero” with a space to write the reason for giving thanks and a tick box for “very much”. I keep them handy at work so that I can just pop one on someone’s desk or door when I feel like showing gratitude. SO SIMPLE yet they really do give people a little boost and a smile.

  21. Lisa Weiss

    When my children were young they received thank you notes and envelopes in their stocking or as a wrapped gift under the tree. They are 29 and 26 now and it is rewarding to see that they continue to send hand written notes for gifts and individually written Christmas messages.

  22. I’m reading this while sipping my tea and just enjoying the relaxing feeling in my body after an intense workout. But to be honest – what you write confuses me a bit, since gratitude is not something you need to express in order to thank other people. It’s not something you give to somebody else. Being grateful is something you do simply for yourself. A mountain climber does not stop for a breathtaking view out of a sense of duty to thank nature. Nature doesn’t even care. Gratitude just means enjoying the rewards of life.