What if you wrote 52 letters this year? One a week, with your pen, stamp on the envelope, gone. Would that be crazy? As in, no way? Or would that be easy, and you'd simply need to write it in your calendar to remind yourself to follow through?
Whoever you are, if you want to do it, here is your nudge to begin.
Think of how good it feels to find a card or letter in your mailbox, with your name and address hand written by someone important to you. Holding their letter in your hands, knowing they took time to put their thoughts into words for you in this seemingly old-fashioned way.
It can be two sentences inside a small note card. It can be seven pages long. What seems to matter most when you send a letter is that you put your heart, your words, on paper for someone who is dear to you, using your hands to write it, your body to pop it in the mailbox. It wasn't all done by machines, it is real, raw, touchable.
To begin, find paper for the first week. Whatever paper, envelopes, cards you've already got. Put them on your desk or near the bowl of citrus on your table, set a pen down next to them, and if you're super-prepared you might even have postage stamps ready to go.
Who, right now, can you show love?
Who did something generous for you last week or last year?
Who is up to something professionally or athletically, artistically or as a human citizen, that you admire and want to support with your words?
Who could use a boost of confidence, a sense of companionship, someone you can encourage and offer softness?
Consider an elder, someone who might be lonely in a culture that doesn't value elders. Consider a child who might not have ever gotten a letter in the mailbox. Consider your mom -- when was the last time you thanked her for carrying you in her womb?
Choose someone and write their name on the envelope. You know these basics, the rest of the envelope part is easy. Sometimes I simply scan my address book and find names that pop out at me.
Now, sitting ready to write, ask yourself... How much love is my heart willing to express? Think of one strong note of positivity that you feel for this person. "I see how much you give," or "Your work is such a contribution to the world," or "Last year I was lifted out of many dark moments because of your friendship."
It is totally fine to simply write their name, "Thank you for being you," and sign your name. Done. Truly, a simple acknowledgment is a perfectly wonderful use of paper, a stamp and your time.
Make this easy on yourself. Just write something.
Pick someone, find what your heart wants to say to them, and send it off. Perhaps you know a child who doesn't like school. Let them know they're seen! You could write something like... "One day at a time, find something you like about school and enjoy it! Then write down the stuff you don't like in your journal. Then you'll know what you don't want in college, or... ever again! Heck, you could even design your own school without all the things you don't like about yours!" A little humor goes a long way to soften tough situations. Just being with someone, on paper, letting them be seen by your heart's eyes, can make a big difference.
Next week, same thing. Calendar it. Sunday morning with tea? Tuesday at bedtime?
My bet is that if you stick to it, and weeks pass, as you create your practice you will begin to feel a delightful sort of astonishment at how much love this can light-up in your life. If your letter writing practice is anything like mine, people will be touched you wrote to them, you'll feel therapeutically uplifted after writing, and all this for about 50 cents (for a US postage stamp) and some paper.
Tempted to complain about the US Postal Service? Take it from someone who's written 10s of 1,000s of letters and cards in my life --> we've got a good one. The US Postal Service has lost very few of my letters over the years, and its prices are reasonable. Living in Sweden for a year, letter writing was a hefty hobby at 21 Swedish Krona (the equivalent of $2.52) per international letter. Our postal prices and delivery were one reason I was glad to be home.
Try to write without thinking. Let your heart write for you. You've got this.
Our featured free recording for August is a 23-minute talk called Migraines, Pneumonia and 10,000 Coughs: On Befriending Pain, with Leaning into Light Founder Jessica Rios.
You can listen here!
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternal fan of Mr. (Fred) Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.