Why You Should Have Written a Letter Today

_love_letters_gone_astray Do you know me? Then you know I am a letter writer. I send thank you notes when I receive gifts, cards at the holidays (except this year but I’ll be back to normal next year I promise!), and I am a pen pal. In sixth grade I became friends with Lynn, who went to my middle school, and like many children our age we started writing notes to each other at school. I don’t remember the conversation but somehow we discovered that we both found it very disappointing that we never received any mail at home. Outside of birthday cards and the occasional letter from a grandparent there was never any mail to look forward to. We started writing letters in addition to our notes at school. (Can you imagine what our grades would have been like had we actually put this attention towards our schoolwork?!) Other than the year that I was in Australia and never had a physical address more than a month at a time, we have written to each other continuously for 17 years. We never went to school together again after middle school and since high school have not lived in the same state but our conversations occur more regularly and with more depth than the majority of my friends. I’ve worked at two summer camps. The first one was a small performing arts camp in Virginia that I can say with all certainty changed the course of my life forever. One of the things it gave me was another pen pal. One of my campers had had a tough summer but when it came time to leave she was beside herself. Just like all the other kids she was crying and didn’t want to go home. To cheer her up we exchanged addresses and I told her we’d write letters. When I got back to college, a postcard was already waiting for me. Now we’ve been writing for almost 9 years. It was only a few months ago that I met her for the first time since camp, no longer a shy fourteen year old kid but an adult. Writing with Lynn I couldn’t see our evolution into adulthood. I was busy being in it. Writing with my camper it was amazing to watch her letters change from basic reports on what she done that week to more thoughtful works on her hopes and dreams. I don’t think I could have gotten to know either of these women in the same way in any other fashion. They couldn’t have expressed themselves with the same openness and neither could I. Writing a letter feels so personal and intimate and yet somewhat anonymous. You write without seeing the recipient, without being able to gauge their reactions. You have to wait weeks to hear what they thought about your letter and what they’re up to now. Having to wait in our fast paced world is painful and a relief all at the same time. You’ve put your feelings out in the world and then there is nothing else to be done about that. It’s not very often that I meet other letter writers. Bloggers, twitter fanatics, Instagram kinds and queens, obsessive Facebook status updaters? Yes, I know lots of them. But not a lot of letter writers. That’s why I was particularly moved to come across this post from the TED blog this morning: What happened after my TED Talk? I quit my job, wrote a book, grew my organization, and promoted a US postage stamp in Times Square. Hannah Brencher was depressed after college but started leaving love letters for strangers around New York City as a way of reaching out to others. This has blossomed into More Love Letters, an organization dedicated to sending strangers who need extra love letters. I am so impressed by someone who found a creative and helpful way to deal with her hard time and also made it into her livelihood! Most of us are not so productive with our suffering. Check out her TED talk!… And write someone who needs it a letter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n56JDif4hnw

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