Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Letter Writing

     Ninety percent of last week's In Their Words essay was written by my kids who wrote their portions with enthusiasm sans complaints. How was this possible? Do they love writing? you might ask, to which I reply: They've written so many letters through the years, such assignments outside school are given, plus getting published on the Internet for the first time provided ample motivation. 
     I started them writing letters once they were able to assemble sentences (before that they drew pictures). Mostly they've written thank you letters for Christmas or birthday presents received from relatives, but also for overnight stays at Grandma's, Uncle Norm's or Auntie Joan's. They've also written Christmas, get well, how-are-you-doing, and hope-you're-having-a-nice-time greeting cards to elderly shut-in church members (whom we've never met), young adult attendees away at college, and other friends and relatives. 
     I've been writing letters since college and my enthusiasm for it has grown, so I suppose their writing letters in due course following (or leading up to) special occasions is natural (though I'm always the initiator). For all my letters, as well as theirs, are hand written—no computer print-outs, e-mails, or short-cut phone calls allowed. And all their Christmas and birthday cards to relatives and friends must be designed, constructed, and decorated by hand with lots of pretty pictures, colors, and/or designs—sloppy slip-shod efforts won't do. 
     Of course the greatest difficulty for them when they started was determining what to write. I'm not a big fan of vacuous letters, devoid of news or meaningful connection, so I've told them, “Tell them something they don't know about you,” or “Talk about something you enjoyed doing with them.” Upon such prompting, they've come up with appropriate news, often of a personal nature, or fond shared memories.
     I suppose writing of self can come across as somewhat egotistical, but as long as it's not braggadocio, I don't think of it that way. Rather, sharing a bit of self with others is about as good a gift as they can give right now. And people like hearing news of what's going on in other people's lives, or at least I do.
     Whenever our Japan relatives write—usually only towards year end—it's a special treat. My dad's cousin's daughter is always the correspondent who writes in broken, printed English only a few short sentences with photos, but they always bring us in an instant to their whole different world in Japan. (Deanne and I have visited twice—once as newlyweds and once with Braden and Pene for a reunion with Japan relatives and friends at Japan Disneyland; Jaren wasn't born yet.) With just this teeny-tiny window into their lives, and my return correspondences, our connection remains strong whereby we make it a point to meet up in Hawaii or Japan every so many years.
     I was taught that letter writing is common courtesy—no excuses that you already thanked them in person or you'll remember to thank them the next time you see them. And although I don't actively look for slights in our lives, not having seen hand written anythings from close relatives or fiends for years means we just don't get much fun mail anymore. I don't much mind; it's more the kids that miss out. And the would-be letter writers themselves. For I think whatever part of self gets poured into a letter, God refills and then some with blessings. 
     Apostle Paul suffered the worst privations imaginable—as a prisoner of war in horrific conditions might—yet his New Testament Epistles—letters to the church—shine with joy, hope, faith, and love, including some of the most beautiful, cherished, and oft-quoted passages anywhere. And he makes clear that he feels so blessed despite his hardships and sufferings, for having died to self, God's abundant joy has suffused him.
     Now, I'm as similar to Paul as an ant is to an elephant, yet when I write a letter with true love, which sometimes can be draining, I often sense peace and love flood in to fill the void recently vacated as if God noticed, cared and blessed me for this tiny bit of faithfulness. Not that I deserved it, I never have. As Christians, we know that we deserve death and it's only through God's infinite grace that we live and are blessed.

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