The holiday season is rich with countless traditions: festive parties, roasted turkeys, stuffed stockings and of course sending a wish list to the iconic, historical Santa Claus. Since 1912 the United States Postal Service has staffed an answering service, now dubbed Operation Santa, by teaming up charitable organizations with children’s wish lists. Send your letter before December 10th and you can even get a North Pole holiday postmark!
But this year, working with the teenagers who received holiday gifts at Youth Services, we started a new Santa tradition: Thank You letters.
The Santa Thank You letters served multiple purposes. We had several “Santas” to thank this year from the ongoing volunteers, one-time volunteer groups, business sponsors and individual donors. We are extremely fortunate to live in a generous and giving community (Utah is after all the #1 state in volunteers!) and we want to make sure each one knows how much we value and appreciate the time and money donated to our youth.
The mere act of saying Thank You not only helps to foster good relationships with our supporters but it is also good for the youth. A number of studies on gratitude have found that being grateful has the following effects:
- improve well-being
- improve physical health
- strengthen social relationships
- produce positive emotional states
- help cope during stressful times
Being in a shelter during the holidays, when most are enjoying extra time with family, can definitely be stressful for a child or a teen. And even the youth we serve who are at home are not exempt from stress, like the teens more worried about getting a warm coat or a gift card for food to feed their younger siblings.
By giving the youth an opportunity to say Thank You to their “Santa’s” this year, the youth not only learned to express gratitude but also about paying it forward for the youth who will need help during the next holiday season.
A study by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that those who receive thanks are highly likely to help again the next time, regardless of whether it is the same person in need or a different one. With the help of our youth’s heartfelt words, we are striving to make long-lasting partnerships with volunteers and donors to help youth for years to come.
Yes, Santa still has the magic touch. And he deserves a Thank You too!