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Random Acts of GratitudeDecember 18, 2010

Hey! I have a wacky idea! Want to play? Check this out: Random Acts of Gratitude.

I am really bad at writing thank you notes. I forget, I put it off, and then I forget totally. My friend Sophie Littlefield is the MASTER of them. If a stranger gives uup his seat to her on BART, he can expect a hand-written note within two days even if they never exchanged a word. I want to be more like that.

As with everything, though, I think I would get better at writing thank you notes with more practice. So here's how I'm going to work on them: I'm going to give them to people who don't expect them. And I'll do it once a week, for a year. (Seriously, this sounds so fun it makes me bounce in my seat.)

My first target:

Every day when I drive to and from home, I pass a house that I just love. It's almost hidden by the garden in front it, and the only word I can find to describe the garden is raucous. The fruit trees are overgrown, and the roses explode into bloom at the same time, and even in its exuberance, the care that is shown the garden is evident. It's loud, joyous landscaping, and it's wonderful. At Christmas, they string colored lights in a way that makes me heart-happy to my toes: It's as if they just go outside and throw the strings as high as they can, draping a million lights and colors in the tangles of the trees and vines.

A large family owns the house, and they park several similar trucks out on the street -- all the vehicles advertise their landscaping company (which, if I needed landscaping, I would use in a heartbeat). Last year, during that very important vote, they made a huge painted plywood billboard that read NO ON 8, and I fell in love with them even more.

It makes me so happy that they live in my neighborhood, and for years now I've been watching as I drive past to see if I can see anyone hanging out by the pickups -- I've had a vague goal of pulling over and thanking them for being AWESOME. But they're usually in their garden behind the fence, and it seems awkward and a little silly.

So I'm going to write a thank you note. I'll just sign my first name, and it'll say what I think when we pass their house, and then early one morning on my way to work this week, I'll tuck it under the windshield of one of their cars. Wouldn't that be nice? To get a card thanking you for making a stranger happy? I would love that if I were them, so I'm gonna do it.

Do you want to play? Do you want to leave a thank you note for someone who's not expecting it this week? Maybe for your postal carrier who never leaves packages in the rain, or for the guy at the coffee shop who knows your order without asking and makes the best lattes ever. And when you do it, will you leave me a comment telling me what you did? I'll pick a random winner and send that person a little gift (while none of us needs bribes to do something good, it's also fun to be part of a community of people doing something good together, isn't it?). (And even more fun for me to give a little present!)  

I like this. Keep me posted, okay?

PS: Happy holidays, whichever of them you like to celebrate.

Sisters, Union Square


Neat idea! I try to make someone smile each day, preferably someone I haven't ever met. Going to ponder note form. It's still so very hard for me to write by hand -- can't seem to forge a new link between my brain and what's left of my eyes; might have to do it verbally instead.

I think this is a beautiful idea!
One thing that has always helped me to write thank you cards is to have really lovely cards on hand that I really want to share with people.

gonna do this one, rachael!

the closest i came this past week was giving fingerless mitts (knit by me a couple of winters ago and stashed away and forgotten until this summer's move) to "my" girls who work the drive-thru at the McD's i frequent. it was cold (yes, here in north florida) and i wanted to offer them something to warm their hands while they were taking money/handing out bags of food. (gloves would not have worked, 'cause they need their fingers uncovered to count cash, etc.)

i would have give more drive-thru workers mitts, but didn't have more ready, so guess what i'll be knitting after the christmas rush. "my" McD girls seemed to appreciate them, and i'm guessing others might, too.

anyway, thanks for the note-writing inspiration. and the inspiration you give all the time.


A couple of years ago, I started writing thank-you notes to the authors of the books that had an impact on me, especially as a child growing up. Unfortunately, I got stalled when--as happens with the authors of childhood memories--the search for contact information for Trina Schart Hyman revealed that she had died a few years before. (And it was such a GOOD thank you note! Damn.)

This has had unexpected bonuses beyond making other people happy: I found out that Anne Langton writes for adults as well, which I'd never thought to check, and Jane Yolen wrote me back, and thanked me for making her day!

It's important to try to not to get migraines(if medication helps or whatever) cause they've found a link between migraines + auras and brain legions. They didn't know before that migraines could cause brain damage. Google brain lesions migraines. I gave up sugar 8 months ago and I've only had a slight migraine - around 3 hours in 8 months whereas prior to giving up sugar, my migraines were up to something like 3 days. Sugar or brain damage - I think I can keep staying away from the sugar, hopefully.

I love this idea, and especially of making it a regular feature of the year! And oddly enough, I've thought about doing this because of a garden too. My walk to work takes me across a fairly desolate, industrial stretch of Brooklyn -- except for the most fabulous sidewalk garden EVER in front of a building with a single tiny, grate-covered window on the third floor (it's definitely an apartment, I can see a bit of kitchen). Huge variety of flowers, lovingly tended, planted with things that flower at different times so something is in bloom from April to November. I so value the work put into it and have often thought of slipping a note through their mail slot telling them so. So I will.

And, as someone who's been a recipient of two hand-written Sophie Littlefield thank-you notes, I can say with certainty that an unexpected note like that can completely make your day.

Ohhh, there have been houses I have passed and thought similar things, usually because of crazy, colorful flowers. This is a lovely idea. And can you imagine how wonderful it would be to get such a note?

What an great idea. There is a special house I walk with amazing seasonal decorations. I will write a note to put in the mailbox tomorrow morning.

I do this but with an odd twist. I love to take photos - to the point that I am rarely without my camera in arms reach. So when I'm out and about, if I see something pretty and photograph it - like a garden or cool decorations and such - I make a note and when I've processed the photos, I leave a copy of it with a note about how that moment made me smile and I wanted to share it with them.

This is a wonderful idea Rachel. I work a Rehab Unit where I usually care for 12 patients. I work Christmas nite so ahead of time I plan to write a special note for each one of them who will be there telling each one something about how having them to care for makes my nights special. I will wait till they are all asleep and than VERY QUIETLY I am going to sneak into each room and leave the note as they sleep. It will give them each something special to wake up to. I will send you a message monday morning and let you know what they said and how they felt. OOOH I am getting goosebumps thinking about doing this.

OK Rachael - I did it and when I got to work last nite and made my rounds first thing I got hugs and thank yous from all of them but one in particular made my day. She told me that she always looked forward to the days when I come in because she knows she will sleep well. I asked her why that was and she said " Because I feel safe when you are here." she than proceeded to tell me how wonderful it was to wake up and find that note. She told me she loved me and that she would keep it always.I felt very proud to be a compassionate nurse last nite.

Reading this NPR story:

and immediately thought of you. I'm sensing a trend... time to jump on the bandwagon!

I am also a fiend for thank you notes!! Getting ready to do mine tonight!!!


Thank you for such well-done post! I adore your language and your belief on this subject. It was so nice for me to read your post. By the way, do you have sony ebook reader? I’ve recently purchased it and now I am excited with it!

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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