One of my desk drawers barely closes because the contents push against it in an ongoing struggle to be set free. Plain notecards in all shapes and sizes, notepads with delicate designs, greeting cards of every variety, postcards featuring nature, and pieces of handcrafted folded cardboard; they all seem to push and shove their way toward the edges every time I reach inside to retrieve something appropriate on which to write a letter.
When I try to recall the first time I enjoyed the easy flow of conversing on paper, I picture myself in the kitchen of my childhood home sitting on a counter stool, happily scribbling on purple lined paper. My thoughts would tumble into stories about my daily activities, questions that needed to be answered, and funny captions of different people. I see myself smiling, giggling, but then shaking my head as a frown crinkles my face while I ponder over a troubling incident. I poured my words into heart to heart chats, sharing worries, and concerns. I sent letters as far away as Vietnam to one cousin serving as a nurse, and one serving in the Navy. I mailed notes to friends as they travelled, and to strangers known as pen pals.
I partly enjoyed deciding which type of paper and pen to use to create my letters. When sealing wax appeared on the shelves of the stationery store, I eagerly selected the stamp to grace the envelopes I mailed. I treated each missive as a treasured tale on a journey to reach an important destination. Even as a young girl I chose words that I hoped would impact the recipient in the way he or she required at the time.
The responses to my letters continually surprised me. Often something I had shared prompted someone to write in similar fashion, confiding or laughing along in kind. Looking back, that’s when I realized the true worth of letter writing. Each time I selected the paper and began to write, I began a process of pausing to take the time to hold another person in my thoughts, to wonder what he or she needed to hear, and to believe that my presence conveyed in the words I was about to write would be the gift needed at that time.
For example, during my college years I wrote to my parents even though I lived in a dorm only 30 minutes away from home. They in turn sent encouraging words to me. However, the most memorable and cherished ones I ever received arrived as three short, separate notes. Over the course of a week I received three envelopes from my Dad that briefly said everything I needed to hear that particular week. In order I opened the first one: I. Then the next one: Love. Followed by the final envelope: You.Despite e-mail, Facebook, and blogs, I still like to open my desk drawer to select the one letter to send to someone who needs to receive my written words.