Starting two years ago, I found myself writing David a letter about once a month. I jokingly told him I needed to write more letters in case I ever got famous my biographers would have something to collect, compile, and analyze. The truth was, I’d often find myself thinking about him and would want to share what was in my heart—sentiments that really couldn’t be expressed in a phone call or text message.
Knowing how happy and special it makes me feel to receive a handwritten note, I’ve always wanted to be a person that wrote and sent notes to people. But wanting to do something and actually doing it are two different things. Other than the occasional thank-you note or letter to David, I was never able to make it a regular habit until this year.
Waaay back in January I set a few goals for the year, as is my habit. One of my goals was to write a note every day. To make it official, I ordered some personalized stationary, bought some stamps, and sat down every Monday to work out who I would write letters to that week. I wrote to folks I had interacted with recently. I wrote to folks who were on my mind. I wrote to family members and friends. And on the 11th of every month (because his birthday is on June 11) I wrote to David.
It was difficult at first, but it soon became a meaningful spiritual discipline. There’s something special about slowing down and reflecting on what a person means to me. There’s a freedom to express things in a note that don’t really make their way into everyday conversations.
The great theologian Henri Nouwen once reflected on the act of letter writing that deeply resonated with my experience. He wrote:
When I write I think deeply about my friends, I pray for them, I tell them my emotions and feelings. I reflect on our relationship, and I dwell with them in a very personal way. Over the past few months I have come to enjoy letter writing more and more. In the beginning it seemed like a heavy burden, but now it is a relaxing time of the day. It feels like interrupting work for a conversation with a friend.
As I wrote each name, I would hold that person in my heart. Every note became both a prayer and blessing. And then I would take a sneaky delight it sending it on its way. I loved thinking about how it would appear in a mailbox where it would hopefully bring a smile to someone’s face.
Granted, there have been days or weeks where I haven’t been as faithful with making it a daily practice. Some days I would write two or three notes to make up for skipped days, but on the whole letter writing has taken root and become a part of my spiritual practice.
Another delightful and unexpected benefit has been the letters I’ve received in return. I love seeing your handwriting and holding an object knowing that you also held it. Little did I know when I set out to write more letters that in a few months we would be physically separated by a pandemic. More than ever, I love the way letters connect us across time and space. I treasure your notes and will hold on to them—just in case you ever get famous 🙂