Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. ~Theodore Roosevelt

I recently remarked to my postal person that virtually none of the mail we receive today is personal; almost all comes with a digitally created label on the envelop and some sort of form inside.

Rare, indeed, is the handwritten post.

A personally written note or letter requires three things: time, awareness, and intention. These are, coincidentally, the ingredients of gratitude.

Gratitude arises from an event-something that occurs in time. You can mark it on the calendar. When your doctor said you didn’t have cancer. When a good friend gave you a gift. When your child told you that you were the best parent.

At its most basic form, gratitude is awareness. Gratitude knows that something significant has happened. That someone graced you. That someone took time out of a busy day to say something kind to you. Not everyone has this awareness, because this awareness also has a companion–awareness of the presence and actions of others.

The third thing that both a handwritten letter and gratitude require is intention. To send a letter requires the desire and determination to tell another person something important. It may be as simple as “I love you,” or as complicated as your travel itinerary, but at some point you decided you wanted someone to know that.

Intention is, in this case, more than a warm feeling, it is actually a motivation that carries through to action. It is results in writing the note, saying thank you to the person holding the door, or “paying forward” the good deed.

My theory is that thanksgiving has become a rarer commodity, thus the decline in writing personal messages. A handwritten note is not only used to say thank you, but it requires the same skills.

If we lose the skills, we lose the expression.