The handwritten word

I haven’t done the math, but I’m pretty sure I’ve posted more than a week’s worth of celebrating the ordinary topics for Marie’s blog challenge. I’ve never been one to color inside the lines, so if I post more than a week’s worth it will come as no surprise.

Today’s topic: handwritten thank you notes. I love them. I’ve written about my love for them before, and likely will again. I’m a sucker for good paper products, and have a stash of folded notes, flat cards, and all varieties of stationery. I recently had occasion to write a thank you note to a cop. No, not a bribe or a buttering-up, but a genuine expression of gratitude. My favorite girl and I had a car crash on a rainy highway last month, and ended up stranded for a few hours because of deployed airbags. The sheriff who was the first on the scene was a peach. He was calm, patient, and knowledgable. He stayed with us from start to finish, even though it was hot & humid on a late summer afternoon following a Gulf Coast rainstorm and even though he found himself in a patch of fire ants that bit him mercilessly. He engaged my favorite girl with everyday conversation to reassure her and get her mind off the scary scene she had just starred in; she runs toward a bit of worry and anxiety, and he recognized this right away and did the gentle work to calm her. I was busy putting on a brave face, so passing that job off to him was a relief.

When the tow truck arrived to haul away my battered car, the sheriff chatted with the driver as he did his work. When The Hubs arrived to drive the girl and me home, the sheriff admired The Hubs’ car and spent a few more minutes of his long day talking horsepower and zero-to-60 stats.

All told, the sheriff went above and beyond in doing his job that day. At one point I told him how much I appreciated him hanging out with us until our ride arrived. He mentioned that he’s the father of two girls and that he’d hope someone would do the same for his wife and kids if they were in our shoes. And that the stretch of highway we happened to be stranded on is a bit of a rough patch, known for being populated by drug runners moving product from The Valley to Houston. He’s seen some ugly stuff on that stretch of road, and said he just wouldn’t feel right about leaving us to fend for ourselves.

After we got home, I thought about how kind the sheriff was and how he made a terrible situation bearable. I sat down to write him a note expressing my gratitude. He’d given me his business card, so I had the address of the sheriff’s office. Write a few lines, lick the envelope shut, slap on a stamp and I was good to go. But I wasn’t quite done. I googled the sheriff’s office to find an email address for the sheriff’s boss. Figured he needed to know what an outstanding job his charge had done. I imagine they get plenty of complaints at the sheriff’s office, so why not take a few minutes to pay them a compliment? Trouble was, there was no email address, so I printed off a copy, put it in an envelope and sent it old-school style. Snail mail.

I didn’t think much of it as I waded through the insurance red tape and dealt with my service advisor at the dealership. Days ran into weeks, time passed, and the upsetting incident on the side of the highway faded into a memory. Then a few days ago I got a call from the sheriff’s office. My first thought was something bad: the sheriff had forgotten to write me a ticket, or some other trouble. But no, it was just the opposite: the sheriff’s boss’s boss was calling me to say he’d read the thank you note I wrote to the sheriff and to the sheriff’s boss, and he wanted to tell me that in all his years of law enforcement, they’ve never received a thank you note. Not once.

That’s a crying shame.

I’m certain I’m not the first person who’s had a positive experience with the Victoria County Sheriff. Yet I was the first person to take five minutes out of my day and spend 44 cents on a stamp to say thanks, you really made a difference in my life? I was shocked. I still am shocked.

The Deputy Commander wanted to know why I took the time to write a note to the sheriff and to his boss. I didn’t have an answer beyond, “Because that’s the way my mama raised me.” As my dad instilled in me my entire life, “It’s just what you do.” And now I know that this simple, ordinary act — one my mama taught me — means something. It always means something to me when I write a thank you note, and it’s nice to know that it means something to the recipient as well.

The best part: Mr Deputy Commander said the sheriff is up for a promotion, to a detective, and that my two notes would be a part of the review process. Who knows, maybe a couple of notes will be the tipping point and he’ll get the job. Then he can write me a thank you note!