Like every other middle-aged slightly hypochondriacal human, COVID has been a non-stop threat to my sanity. So Instacart has been a godsend in getting me out of visiting the superspreader event known as a grocery store.

Yesterday when the Instacart guy dropped off our groceries, he left behind a handwritten thank you note. I’m guessing he was required to write it, and it may have been largely from a script, but it didn’t matter. It made me happy.

That’s the thing about gratitude and other small acts of kindness – your cynical brain may feel manipulated, but it makes you feel good anyway. We’re wired for connection and that neurobiological system operates in a much deeper, and largely unconscious way. And it’s way more powerful than the thinking brain that tries to transform kindness into cynical acts.

So having been thanked by the Instacart delivery guy, it brought to mind the fact that after a year of substantial donations to a number of causes, we received exactly ZERO personal thank you notes. That’s a little shameful when the guy who drops off the coffee and bananas can express more gratitude than the causes I support.

And before you raise COVID as an excuse, I’m gonna call bullshit. Alia and her sister wrote, stamped and mailed several thousand postcards urging voters in swing states to turn out for the election. At the height of the pandemic. Somehow they managed to pull it off, because it was important to them. (My own postcard output was much lower, but it was more than zero.) The point is, it mattered to get those postcards out and Alia made time for it.

Not thanking your donors effusively is a choice you made. And right now based on my personal experience, the bar is pretty low to out-thank the competition. And at least to out-thank Instacart.

Donors notice when gift acknowledgment is completely impersonal or non-existent. We hear about it all the time in our survey work. It’s a big contributor to the sensation donors have of being treated like ATMs.

So please don’t think that thank you note that didn’t get written didn’t matter. It probably did.

Oh and by the way, expressing gratitude makes YOU happier. Check out this week’s TED Radio Hour.


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