Love –  Spelling it Out for Others

This month, I want to talk about something that has become a great source of sadness and a peeve for me – the demise of letter writing, particularly the sending of thank-you notes. Now, please don’t dismiss me as a dinosaur who can’t roll with the changes of a world filled with technological advances and the immediacy of sending quick texts and emojis. I keep step with it all and text and emoji with the best of them. But I miss and long for a good old-fashioned newsy letter in the mailbox. Day after day, I jump up when the mailman stops by, and day after day, I’m disappointed when I find only bills or sale flyers. 

Until about 25 years ago, I often received letters from family and friends. Great newsy letters telling of how my loved ones spent their days and any surprising news they had to share. These letters made me feel like a bug on the wall, hanging out with my loved ones and being a part of their lives, even though sometimes the news might seem mundane to others. Here’s an example. Though just a phone call away, my grandmother and mother used to write to me once or twice a month. They would tell me about new recipes they were going to try and include the recipe in the letter, or relayed news of old friends who had stopped by for visits, or report anything strange or different that had happened in the community– such as tornado sirens that woke them in the night, or a pet dog that had wandered off and wasn’t seen for days. One of my favorite letters from my grandmother was sent to me when I was in my late 20s, and she shared that an old friend of hers had stopped by to see if she wanted to go squirrel hunting with them. And she did! I knew my grandmother liked fishing with her sisters, but I had no idea she was also a squirrel hunter, let alone ate squirrels! It was a big revelation, and just when I thought I knew everything about her.

And there was more to the letters than just their thoughts and activities. Sometimes the letters carried the faint smell of their perfume. And their handwriting is forever etched in my mind. The way they formed their letters and signed their names, even the occasional misspelling of a word, were and still are as significant as the memories I have of the details of their faces. So while I no longer have access to those precious faces and voices, I still have some letters. I periodically get them out when I need to remember and feel close to people who are now far away from me.

Another thing I loved about letter-writing was receiving thoughtful thank-you notes acknowledging gifts I gave, meals I cooked, or anything I tried to do as a thoughtful expression of my love for people. It’s not so much that I needed to be thanked, as it is the happiness that such a note reveals that I made a connection, that someone saw my effort or was touched by something as the result of my actions. Acknowledgment of our outreach efforts sends the message that we did something good, valued, and meaningful. That act alone encourages us to keep doing for others. We all need to make it a practice to think more of others. There is joy in doing so and joy to be found in stepping away from ourselves. This is important to teach our children. Because, in loving others and expressing that love, we also receive love for ourselves. It’s a beautiful circle.

So folks, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Let’s write a good old-fashioned love letter to someone and thank them for being in our lives. Don’t text it. Don’t send an emoji. Instead, write it out on paper, mail it, and make it a habit. And I guarantee that simple thing will burn into someone’s heart. Check out this month’s Recommended Reads section for a review of Sallie Bee Writes a Thank-You Note by Courtney Sheinmel and Susan Verde, Illustrated by Heather Ross. And in my Activities section of the blog, you can find a Wax-Resist Valentine Card activity that’s fun to try for all ages.

Published by littleseedsread

Hello, my name is Julie Lerczak. For over twenty-five years I worked as an educator in a variety of art, history, and anthropology museums in Illinois, Iowa, and Virginia. Then, for the last five years of my career, I was an environmental educator. I am now retired and am pursuing my dream of being a children's book author. I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I live in Illinois with my husband Tom and our rescued pet turtle "Tootles." When I'm not writing stories I enjoy gardening, painting, making pottery, beekeeping, photography, hiking, and traveling.

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