One man's mission to write 5 thank-you notes a day for a year: It's 'filled me with a lot of love'

PHOTO: John Israel, pictured here with wife Monica and sons Anderson and Rohn, is on a mission to write five thank you notes a day for a year. Courtesy of John Israel
John Israel, pictured here with wife Monica and sons Anderson and Rohn, is on a mission to write five thank you notes a day for a year.

Writing thank-you cards is typically a task that people do after big occasions — birthdays, weddings, graduations and baby showers, to name a few. That’s why for most, sitting down to thank others is not an everyday task. But one man in Texas decided that these small expressions of gratitude shouldn’t be solely for big events.

John Israel is on a mission to write five thank-you cards per day for one year. He said he’s nearing his 200th day of the challenge and has no intention of stopping short. If he reaches his goal, he will have hand-written 1,825 notes.

Israel, 33, who works as a gift salesman at Cutco Cutlery and Cutco Closing Gifts, said the idea came to him while attending a personal growth seminar.

“I was like, ‘I’m not interested in a big sales goal … How can I legitimately make an impact? Not just as a gift salesman but [to] live gratitude as a daily practice,’” he told ABC News.

PHOTO: When finished with his goal, Israel will have written 1825 handwritten notes in one year.Courtesy of John Israel
When finished with his goal, Israel will have written 1825 handwritten notes in one year.

Israel said he has always enjoyed writing thank-you notes, so it seemed like the natural way to make an impact in his and others’ lives.

“I’ve had a lot of positive experiences giving them and receiving them, and I was like, ‘I want to do that every day,’” he said.

Since October, Israel has written thank-you notes to people from former teachers who made an impact on his life to waiters he’s seen working hard at restaurants.

He’s even found unique ways to meet the goal, like sticking notes in the pockets of old suits before donating them to Goodwill. The suits were with Israel for some significant life events, he said, but he didn’t wear them anymore. He was hesitant to give them away for sentimental reasons, but putting notes in the pockets turned it into a positive experience.

PHOTO: To help complete his goal, John Israel tucked notes into old suits before he donated them.Courtesy of John Israel
To help complete his goal, John Israel tucked notes into old suits before he donated them.

“‘It’s really hard to give up [this suit], so I just wanted to say thank you for picking this up, and I hope it serves you well,’” Israel said one note read. “Part of the experience that’s been really fun to explore is trying to bring gratitude to really uncomfortable experiences or something I don’t want to do.”

It takes about an hour and a half to write the five notes each day, Israel said, but he doesn’t allow himself to skip a day or to write any of the notes ahead of time. Not every note Israel writes elicits a response, but many do, he said. He has more than 20 of those responses hanging up at his home.

PHOTO: In addition to writing notes to old teachers and friends, Israel also pens some to pilots, flight attendants and waiters he encounters.Courtesy of John Israel
In addition to writing notes to old teachers and friends, Israel also pens some to pilots, flight attendants and waiters he encounters.

In the early days of the challenge, Israel received heartfelt responses from airline pilots he thanked for getting him safely to his destination, as well as a hug from a waitress he acknowledged for working particularly hard at a crowded bar. He said it made him realize that he had to keep it up and that it’s important to appreciate people for the seemingly mundane things they do.

“It’s not always, ‘Hey, thanks for that thing you did,’” he said. “Sometimes, it’s just acknowledging people for who they are.”

The feedback has been a large part of why Israel enjoys what he’s doing. He also writes about the experience on his website.

He said he has had “all these really cool experiences that have totally filled me with a lot of love.”

Since hearing of Israel’s idea, his friend Nick Hemmert has also taken on the challenge.

PHOTO: After hearing of Israels idea, friend Nick Hemmert followed suit, even making his own sets of thank you cards. Courtesy of Nick Hemmert
After hearing of Israel's idea, friend Nick Hemmert followed suit, even making his own sets of thank you cards.

“John’s inspiration was really a hallmark to say, ‘I really need to take some time [to thank] not only people who were in my life a long time ago but also ones I interact with on a daily basis,’” Hemmert told ABC News.

Hemmert manufactures his own thank-you cards now through his organization, the Center for Awesomeness, and it’s been a positive experience for him as well. He has written notes to friends, former youth group leaders and even a teller who helps him where he banks.

“It’s been really fun,” he said. “We really need this right now in a lot of different ways — to realize that there are other people out there who care about what we do and to show that with a dollar’s worth of money and a card. It’s really cool.”