Rejoice and write a letter

Rejoice and write a letter

Rejoice – and write a letter

A friend of mine died recently. She was a good writer and I sent a small donation to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, in her memory. I received a charming letter from the Development Manager thanking me. Nothing exceptional in that. But the letter was personally ‘topped & tailed’, was clearly individually written and had a sense of sincerity about it seldom seen these days. It didn’t ask for more money or press literature on me. It didn’t sing endless praises about LMH but simply told me how my contribution would be used. A contribution to the Paul McClean prize. Excellent.

I was very touched. It must have taken a few minutes to write, and airmailing something to Singapore from UK these days is a bit of a hassle. But I have, sitting in front of me, a nice clean letter addressed to John Bittleston with my name correctly spelt, not Donor Number XYZ123. I sent an email reply congratulating the writer, Sarah, who had signed the letter to me, saying what a good ‘thank you’ I thought it was. All this fuss about a letter?

Absolutely. When someone takes a bit of trouble to say thank you it is worth praising. I am sure some efficiency expert will say it can all be automated, that nobody even needs to know I have made a donation and that an artificially intelligent email would have cost less and might have extracted even more money from me. I don’t care, because what I have is something a real person has taken a bit of trouble over. I shall not forget that.

Words gush forth. An emailed sales missive that arrived on the same day began “I am excited to tell you…”. Well, bully for you. I am happy about your excitement, but not very. The frisson of thrill I am (I imagine) supposed to feel upon learning of the writer’s excitement, was zero. A natural hostility rose in its place. Frankly, I don’t give a monkey’s umbrella if this person is excited or not.


I had written thus far in today’s Daily Paradox when I received an email from the boss of the LMH Development Manager thanking me for writing to his staff member and saying that she had appreciated it very much. At a stage of development in her career it meant a lot to her to be praised for something that they were experimenting with – a redesigned, more personal approach to thanking people for their donations. The Development Director told me he will himself be in Singapore for a brief visit soon and I hope very much to meet him.

It takes a little effort to be nice. Sometimes there is no response, in which case you know you have done your bit and assume the other party is too busy. When you get a response of the sort I had you realize that there are still kind people about. It is a refreshing revelation.

The Lady Margaret Hall ‘thank-you’ incident touched the lives of three people. Like a sweet musical phrase, it sang for them briefly. It may become dim in the mists of time.

But they will remember it for the rest of their days.