Like anyone who’s been educated in the Western world in recent history, I’ve been surrounded by written words my whole life. We work hard to teach our children how to form letters and words and how to read those words, because those skills are essential for our society. My son is three. He can spell his name and “Mom,” “Dad,” and “STOP.” We start this process early.
I volunteered for double and triple doses of these written words when I pursued an undergraduate degree in English, a minor in history, and a Masters of Divinity degree. I’ve read. I’ve written. A LOT! Trust me on this one.
Probably since I’ve been so engulfed with written words, I’ve taken them for granted and failed to recognize their power. So, I’m reflecting and remembering.
I remember my freshman year of college and how my long-distance boyfriend and I wrote each other EVERY DAY. Yes, really. This was before Skype and Facebook (although he wouldn’t have been on it), even before every student had a cell phone and communicated constantly via texting. We were stuck with e-mail, land lines, and snail mail. I spent every afternoon between class and dinner writing my beloved. We have boxes of evidence recounting every up and down of that first year apart.
I used to write my beloved every day. But it’s been twelve years since my freshman year of college and those daily notes of love. Last week marked the fourteenth year since our love story began. I decided that was a good time to write another love letter. It was nothing special, just a list of little things that I love about the man he is now—at thirty-years-old, as a husband, father, son, and pastor. I hope it mattered.
Last night I met a mother of a student who recently visited my student ministry for the first time. When her son visited a month ago, I wrote him a personal note thanking him for his visit, reminding him of our next gatherings, and giving him my contact information. I do this every month. I think little about it. But this mom thought a lot about it. When the card came in the mail for her son from the church, she read it. Her husband came home and seeing the torrent of tears, asked if someone had died. That’s how much my four-sentence note card meant to her. Unbeknownst to me, she’s leaving a painful church experience, and written words that offered thanks and welcome and a friend without asking for anything were words she needed to read.
I’m trying to schedule coffee with a dear, intimate friend. She was a student in my ministry. I used to write her notes periodically, reminding her of my prayers and love and acceptance and belief in her. Years ago, I wrote a note to another member of her family. She recognized my handwriting on the envelope, and I received a sharp note from her, “I miss seeing your handwriting.” What she was saying was that my words, written in my unique, feminine script, were important to her. They mattered, and their absence did, too.
I’ve also discovered that written words matter to the writer. This blog has become a way for me to process. It matters to me. It takes a mind swirling with ideas and gives it release and structure. That frees my mind to still and to focus and to be present. And that makes me better…at every role I play.