I can’t remember when I fell in love with letters. I’m guessing it happened sometime circa second grade, when my lanky legging wearing, straight across bangs self discovered that with a pen, paper, and a little imagination I could create a story. A blank page, once the same as millions of other blank pages, became a unique conduit of words, an irreplaceable bookmark of dragons and castles and elementary school detectives. Back then (listen to me, am I already ancient?!)…back then, computer word processing was just becoming a thing. I still remember reading my dad’s seminary papers, each word carefully typed on the old typewriter in our house, and mistakes meticulously blotted out with white out. When you wrote a book report…you WROTE a book report. And I loved every second of it.
I love how the words are etched into the paper with strokes from your hand and will never be quite the same as those same words penned by another. No one can change the font, it is unabashedly and always yours. The same you who learned on giant lined pages how to shape your A’s and W’s, when you decided you’d pick up your pen to complete the G’s . The same you to whom the teacher assigned extra practice because your P’s still didn’t look quite right, and you spent 30 minutes every night at the table with your tongue sticking out, only to find that you still don’t write them like everyone else…and you like it that way. The same you who decided your handwriting looks better in all caps, and you can’t remember the last time you wrote in lower-case. It’s you with your favorite type of pen that you pay extra for because nothing writes quite like it. You who’s embarrassed to write because your handwriting still hasn’t improved or you who invented your own style of cursive because penning Z’s the “correct” way, cannot possibly be the correct way.
I love when your words carry you away down a sentence and over a line break and you forget to pick up your hand, allowing your inked-blue words to become a part of you… and the bottom of your shirt… and occasionally your face. It’s not clean, or guaranteed, or safe, Once you mess up you don’t get a re-do. Errors cannot be deleted, only crossed out–leaving your mistakes a part of your story, slightly or dramatically affecting the rest depending on what you decide.
So when someone writes you a letter, it’s more than words. It’s little pieces of that person. The past that’s shaped their G’s and the ink smeared by their palm. Sentences are fashioned by the way in which they see the world and penned by the very hands that have fought battles in that world. If you look hard enough amidst the consonants and vowels,carefully crafted into thoughts and musings, you might even catch a glimpse of their soul.
Letters bridge time. If you write to someone on Saturday, they will not read your words until Tuesday. The you who laced those commas and periods together could be a quite different you by the time they read the middles and ends of those lines. There’s no immediate gratification here–no knowing if it will ever really get there. Just love…and faith.
For reasons beyond my own comprehension, many of my friends and family have decided to write me letters. (You may have noticed my repetitive Facebook statuses regarding the matter.) I get one letter every day..sometimes more than that. Envelopes of different shapes and sizes and colors. Return addresses from places I once called home, places I do call home, and places I might find myself someday. Handwriting in purple and blue and black and pink from ballpoint pens in Kentucky or New York or PA…or just across the hall. Little words, big words, all caps and rounded A’s, stationary and notebook paper, all ordinary things used with great love.
I guess all of this got me thinking. Whether the day proves to be outrageously amazing or leaves me scraping the bottle of the barrel, knowing there’s a letter there waiting from someone who values and appreciates me, gives me fire. It reminds me of God’s love–consistent, irreplaceable, present. And I don’t think I
should be the only one who gets to know what that feels like.
So here’s my challenge. If you are reading this blog, pull out a pen and paper. Grab an envelope and scrounge in your desk for an old book of stamps. Think of that teacher or coach who challenged you . Remember that youth pastor who prayed for you. Find the name of that friend who consistently and ruthlessly loves you.
Think of a parent or a brother or sister who gives over and over and over. Write to them. Write to them in your style, with your wit, through your slang and your verbage. Share a piece of your heart with them and do it on purpose. Remind them why they are loved and that it’s you who loves them.
Remember, it does not have to be long winded or fancy to be meaningful. It’s meaningful because it’s you. Your love and heart and honesty poured out in your distinct fingerprint of longhand. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from these letters, it’s the YOU between the words that makes them so significant.
Write one letter. Give love.
Convince someone they are completely and utterly loved…and they can move the world.