I’ve been fascinated lately with letters and notes. I can’t get enough of the beautiful examples here.
A sweet “hello,” or a, “hey, do you remember that one thing that happened that one time that was so funny/sad/amazing/tragic/wonderful?”
We don’t really write these kinds of notes to each other anymore.
Yes, there is a downside the internet.
On the upside, my mailman now delivers our mail by 9am nearly every morning. And yet every upside has an underbelly as we know, so while that convenience certainly serves me, I know it’s because he has half as much mail to deliver, and is danger of losing his job entirely.
Where am I going with this?
Writing letters - writing good letters - be they physical, metaphorical or otherwise, in my opinion, is the primary job of the artist, the pastor, the therapist, or the human who wants to connect.
Let me explain.
Last week I wrote a post about how my grandmother sent me a book for Christmas on the Pacific War. I had almost thrown it away when I realized there was a note on the very last page. The note mentioned how as I read the book, I would find my grandfather’s name and the names of his brothers. The book I was holding in my hand wasn’t trash, it was my story. But I wouldn’t have known that unless my grandma had written me that note. Her little note connected me to a larger story.
It seems to me the only way one gets another (or yourself, for that matter) to enter their story is by penning them a note that says something as simple as:
“Hey you! This story - this big, wide story - is your story too.”
“Penning” can look like a sentence spoken in a therapist’s office, a good word from a friend, a beautiful piece of art, or even a lovely song.
But don’t let my simple phrase fool you.
Writing a good note to someone - helping them understand a bit of themselves more deeply, meanwhile connecting them to a larger story, is hard work.
Like, really hard.
I think we can all admit there are a lot of crappy storytellers and note writers out there.
Am I right? Am I right?
Back in the day, and I’m sure they exist still somewhere in the South or in East Coast boarding schools, classes were led by ladies like Emily Post that taught a person how to write a letter.
Heading. Greeting. Body. Closing. Warm Regards. Touch of perfume. Etc.
But how do you go about learning how to write a letter like I’m talking about?
A note that moves someone to enter a bigger story? One that reminds them of the story that is theirs and only theirs?
Where do you go to learn that?
The only place I know of that will teach you to write a letter like what I’m describing is the Seattle School of Psychology & Theology.
In 2006 I began learning how.
It took a heavy heart, lots of tears, lots of papers, and a vision for a future where these kinds of notes were essential for helping people to understand their story.
(Photo by my friend and fellow Seattle School alum, Mr. Joshua Longbrake)
Until my dying day, I will get everyone who will listen to consider spending a few years in the Pacific Northwest learning to write good notes.
Writing letters - writing good letters - be they physical, metaphorical or otherwise, in my opinion, is the primary job of the artist, the pastor, the therapist, or the human who wants to connect the world to a larger story.