A small expression of gratitude, the thank-you note, can generate a powerful amount of goodwill.
But if you really want to see power, write a love letter. It’s a great retirement skill.
You might be thinking, “Love letter? Bah. What’s he on about?”
Okay, call it a "letter of appreciation." Or “heartfelt expression of admiration carefully composed at some length to convince the recipient that you see them and love what you see.”
I’ve written a few in my time. One, long ago, was titled “100 Reasons We Should be Together.” What love-sick fool would go to such lengths? But it worked, at least for a while. The recipient was flattered to the point of almost getting high. One hundred reasons have the effect of a drug. They also provide excellent reference when things get rocky.
One of my sons, unprompted, at about age 16, wrote me a two-page love letter on yellow paper, carefully composed by hand (not easy for most kids), expressing his love, listing his reasons, and concluding that he was immensely grateful that I was his dad.
It was like an warm bath. I wept. It remains the most valuable document in my possession.
One of our four offspring, for a while, was writing mini-love letters on birthday cards to his mother. He just decided to go further than “With love, Karl” and tell his mother more precisely what was behind the sentiment. Those are probably the most valuable documents she owns.
We forget to do this. Or it doesn’t occur to us. Or we don’t make the time. Or we are watching Netflix.
And yet, think of why we value those hand-written expressions of love from our children. And think of what a great opportunity this stage of life is to look back, remember why your people matter to you, and take the time to make the effort.
I think I’ll write one to my kid in response, 15 years later. Better late than never.