Who needs to hear from you?

Dear Jill,

I love you so much. I would give anything I own to be with you right now, my precious. I really don’t know how much longer I can stand to be without you. You are the sweetest, most considerate person in the world. I feel you are a blessing, a gift to my life. You are the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me.

                                                            from Ben to me circa a long time ago

The year before Ben and I were married, we were 600 miles apart more days than we were together. So we wrote to each other every day, keeping the ol’ flame uber-fanned.

These are the letters that steamed themselves open before they got to the post office.

These are the letters that one day–when our daughter finds them in the attic– will make her throw up in her mouth.

But these are also the letters that–if our house were to catch fire–I would fight to save.

Because the power of words on paper is mighty, friends.

You yourself might have learned this as a kid from the first note that said, “Do you like me? YES or NO? Circle one. ” Pretty heady stuff, even if you circled NO.

I learned it too, on a deeper level, as a ten-year old when my father died suddenly. Among the many cards that came to our house in the mail, the only one I remember was from a lady who sent separate cards with notes to my mom, my brother and me. As a child, I felt so special to not only have a card of my own, but words written especially for me, words of sympathy and hope.

Over fifty years later I still have that card.

Words on paper, unlike words on a screen (although they can be good too) can be saved and savored, read over and over, held in your hand. For fifty years, even.

And words on paper can be one of the grandest adventures of all.

Hannah Brencher, author of the wonderful book, If You Find This Letter has an amazing story about writing down encouragement. While she was in college, her mother (who didn’t believe in email) wrote her letters that kept her heartenend. After college, she moved to New York City, and found herself suffering from deep depression. In conjunction with counseling, to help herself cope, she started to write letters–the same caring kinds of letters her mother had written her–to strangers. She left them all over New York: in cafes, subways, libraries, at the UN, on park benches, everywhere. Dozens and dozens of them.

She blogged about doing this and, in her words, made a kind of crazy promise to the internet: that if you asked me for a handwritten letter, I would write you one–no questions asked. Almost immediately her inbox was flooded with requests from people who desperately needed hope, and a reason to wait by the mailbox.

In response to overwhelming numbers of requests, she started a global organization (The World Needs More Love Letters) where volunteers write to those who have never known themselves loved on a piece of paper, such as

a woman whose husband has just come home from Afghanistan. She is having a hard time unearthing this thing called conversation. She tucks love letters around the house as a way to say, “Come back to me.”

–a girl who decides that she is going to leave love letters around her campus in Dubuque Iowa, only to find her efforts ripple effected the next day when she walks out onto the quad and finds love letters hanging from the trees, tucked in the bushes and the benches, and

–the man who decides he’s going to take his life, uses FaceBook as a way to say goodbye to friends and family. But words from strangers, now tucked underneath his pillow at night, changed his mind.

Her book is an inspiring read, and her TED talk is well worth your four minutes and forty seconds.

Maybe you want to get involved, and write letters to strangers in cooperation with Hannah’s organization. Or maybe you want to do it on your own.

Or maybe there’s someone you know who needs to hear from you.

Someone who needs sustenance or empathy or sympathy. Someone who needs to know that they are cared about. Maybe they need to see the words, “I love you,” “I believe in you,” “You can do this,” “You’re on my mind,” “This too shall pass,” “You’re in my prayers,” “I’m proud of you,” “I love who you are, no matter what, forever,” “I’m on your side,” or any one of a million other words of hope and affirmation.

And I understand if you’re thinking, “But I’m not a writer; I’m not eloquent enough. I might sound stupid.”

But please trust me. Eloquence has nothing to do with messages from the heart.

So you can tell that phantom English teacher who’s whispering in your ear to back off and take a couple shots of shut-up juice.

Because your words on paper are about to change a life.

 

If you’re just joining us, check out the very first post (Your Epic Adventure Starts Here), where you’ll learn about starting a yearlong (52 questions) quest to practice living a life of adventure. As a bonus, you will also find the backstory for that ridiculous herd of buffalo on the header photo of this website…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Beth Saunders

    Ah the written word. The effort someone takes to actually write is almost a gift in itself. My mother was a big letter writer. Always wanting to encourage others, she sent letters and cards with notes of inspiration to friends and even, at times, to people she hardly knew. When my mother passed away it was the one resounding thing we heard over and over again, “I still have the letter your mother sent to me when….”