DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our family suffered a flooding disaster, resulting in temporary displacement from our home. We are currently in the repair process and have received numerous gifts ranging from hot meals, to clothing and shoes for our children, to help demolishing aspects of the home in preparation for repair.
How should one thank people? Would people expect a thank-you note in this circumstance?
GENTLE READER: Don't you WANT to thank them?
Of course, you will have thanked them at the time. But a letter is a serious way of showing appreciation, beyond the simple spoken thanks you toss off for trivial courtesies.
When you ask if thanks are expected, Miss Manners hopes that you are not implying that this is a form of payment demanded by those who have been kind to you. Thanks are expected, on the part of generous people, in the sense that they want to hear that their contributions were appreciated because they made a difference.
Miss Manners imagines that these efforts have indeed been valuable to you. And even if they were not, she would want you to understand that such was the intention and react accordingly.
If they have not inspired you to express your gratitude, they should at least suggest to you how useful it is to be the beneficiary of largesse, and make you want to encourage that.