“Dear Reader [insert YOUR first name here],
I am deeply grateful that you have continued to support The Flying News by reading this article and for the wonderful difference you have made in the last 3 minutes by clicking the link that brought you to this page. Once again, from the bottom of my bottomless heart, thank you for your generosity. And so forth.
Thus, or something like thus, reads an instant, personalised thank you letter that I received just seconds ago, after donating online to a charitable institution. (O.K., it wasn’t The Flying News, but it was almost as worthy a cause.) Upon clicking the link to DONATE NOW (I always donate in capitals), I received the instant gratification of a thank you letter so effusive as to come close to flattering me for my exceeding magnanimity, telling me what a wonderful difference my gift of £X makes and how much this organisation relies on people just like (JUST LIKE!) me to provide such profoundly worthwhile services.
My immediate reaction, of course, was one of heartfelt satisfaction, knowing that this organisation had so quickly received my gift that its president, who no doubt receives an instant (or, better than instant, retroactive) “gram”1 notifying him of all such donations, having already sat down and pondered over it for hours, decided that my gift was the single most important one they had received all year and poured his heart out in the letter of gratitude that I then saw on my computer screen only seconds after entering my payment information.
Which reminds me, the darned thing wouldn’t let me un-submit my donation either. In the old days, when you made donations by postal mail, you had several chances to change your mind:
- While talking to your wife about the donation.
- While taking out your cheque book.
- While signing the cheque.
- While writing the amount in the cheque registry.
- While tearing out the cheque. (You could always tear up the cheque instead.)
- While putting the cheque into the envelope.
- While licking the envelope to seal it. (This was before they had sponges and water to lick the envelope for you.)
- While putting the stamp on the envelope.
- While writing your return address on the envelope. (They didn’t have sticky address labels in those days, either.)
- While mounting your horse to ride through the blizzard to the post office.
- While discussing current events and town gossip with the postmaster.
- And finally, before handing the envelope off to the postal clerk, who may
or may nothave been the postmaster himself, or possibly the postmaster’s son. (This was before you could say “may or may not,” as there was only “may.”)
But no, these days, it’s instant: no foresight, no hindsight, no insight, no outsight, just websites. Which is why the thanks must also be instant. But seeing how quickly it touched the heart of the organisation to which I sent my donation, I feel so much instant gratification that I have no qualms about it, and have even decided to reward myself with a double doughnut ice cream sundae with bananas and chocolate cream sauce.
“A Thoughtful Little Friend,” A. Z. Baker. St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks, 39, part 2 (May-October 1912): 595. Public Domain. Internet Archive Book Images.
- Short for telegram, although I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone send or receive a telegram. ↩