The Million Dollar Note

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Mrs. Hayes needed help. She was assigned to teach classes at her high school in the culinary arts department. Given the fact our city’s top economic generator is tourism, she thought a tourism and hospitality course for her students was in order. As a career teacher she knew she needed to outsource this job to another.

Bring in the Experts

Referring to her Rolodex file, Mrs. Hayes searched for the perfect speaker for her students. A professional who could engage her teenage pupils in a way they would learn about the industry and have fun.

She recognized many times industry data can be rather dry and boring. Countless slides of graphs or charts would not bode well with her students. Mrs. Hayes searched for data concerning financial impacts and job creation, all very interesting, but she wanted a personal touch.

During a conversation with Mr. Hayes, she mentioned her thought to have a speaker come to her class. He listened and offered a few names of community leaders she might consider but she wasn’t seeing the right fit. Soon after the initial visit Mr. & Mrs. Hayes both thought of a friend who would make the time to come each semester to discuss the tourism and hospitality in our county.

The Beginning of Something Big

One day a few years ago, I received an unexpected phone call from a dear friend whom I admire and enjoy but don’t get to see very often. It’s always a pleasure to visit with her so I was anxious to catch up when I heard her voice.

Mrs. Hayes had a favor to ask. She explained what subjects she was currently teaching and asked if I could come teach a session of tourism and hospitality. She stated the times would be only an hour, twice a semester. I agreed to address her classes and began to do my research.

It didn’t take me long to realize data on the industry was heavy of numbers and light on experiences. Tourism is an organized effort to entertain visitors and guests. Hospitality is a friendly and generous reception of guests or strangers. Why should Mrs. Hayes’s students care?

How to make this presentation meaningful to the audience at hand was the challenge. What do these youth care about? What they relate to was the answer to my question. They can relate to technology, friendships and activities.

The course was set for me to talk about the matters requested but I added something else. I added etiquette. The triple topic format would be a trifecta of success.

Thank You Note Power

The 55 minute class went by quickly. Students were engaged with the presentation that included the meaning of hospitality, how many jobs are specific to the hospitality business, the number of hotel rooms and the amount of taxes collected. The final section of the presentation was devoted to etiquette. Students were amazed to learn about manners and protocols and maybe, questioning the importance of such actions. The students were good sports and learned where to place a nametag, how to introduce a friend, how to shake hands and many more lifestyle tidbits.

The final focus was on one the most powerful tools in the etiquette toolbox. The thank you note.

I explained thank you notes are not optional, they are required. After the eye rolling and shifting in their seats subsided, the students learned how one card, three written lines and a heartfelt close could change their lives.

Thank you notes are sent because we appreciate a gift received, a meal enjoyed, or time given by one individual to another. Much to my surprise and delight, about a week after that first class, I received 24 thank you notes, one from each student. It was a powerful moment as I opened the folder and poured out the notes. I read each and every one.

I went on to teach this class for several years and following each session, I received a folder with thank you notes from the students. As I said, it was powerful.


A small, but very significant gesture as sending a thank you note can change lives. Sending a note can secure a new job, bring a smile to a face and possibly set a new course in life. Thank you to Mrs. Hayes for helping me set a new course in my life. Receiving the call to teach and the hundreds of thank you notes was the foundation of Social Graces.