World Speech Day 2021 Revisited
I wanted you to know I’ve been thinking about you. I know how hard living abroad can be, and how much you miss your family. Even though we’re far away, you’re always in our hearts and we are here for you! We love you so much and we miss you!
This letter was sent to me earlier this year by my cousin in the United States. I am fortunate. She wasn’t the only one who reached out to me.
Some people may argue that writing letters and sending snail mail is a lost art or a dying trend, which it may be, but it really doesn’t have to be that way - nor should it.
I am an avid letter writer. I typically hand-write nearly 100 cards around the holidays, followed by thank you notes for gifts, as well as special occasion cards for birthdays, mothers’ days, fathers’ days, and more. I’ve been told that I'm “from another time,” which suits me quite well, because I like to let people know I’m thinking about them or caring for them in this way. I don’t want to ever live my life with regrets, and knowing I could have done something as small as send someone a card to brighten their day and then knowing I chose not to out of laziness would haunt me.
Larry, an older gentleman, appreciates my old-fashioned ways. During World War II, Larry was on the Kindertransport and managed to flee the Nazis in Germany with his brother when he was a teenager, arriving safely in England. Larry and his brother later emigrated to the United States, but they were the only members of their family to survive. Years later, I met Larry at Loyola and we became fast friends. He often joked with me that if we were the same age we would be sweethearts!
When I told him I was moving to Florence four years ago, he was crushed. He feared we would never see each other again. Knowing how awful that must feel, I gave him a stack of cards he could open whenever he felt sad, and promised to call from time to time. I wanted to send more cards after I moved, but time got a bit away from me, and, sadly, Larry passed away. Losing a friend is always heartbreaking, and like anyone, I was devastated.
His daughter sent me a message shortly afterwards to tell me how he cherished those cards I had given him, and he read and reread them countless times. I never imagined I could have made such an impact - I was merely doing what I thought was right, and what I would hope someone might do for me if the roles were reversed. I expected nothing in return, I simply did it to make someone else smile. Knowing the impact I had on Larry didn’t lessen the pain I felt over losing my friend, but it did reassure me that old-fashioned card-writing ways aren’t outdated or lame, but instead are thoughtful, impactful random acts of kindness that can bring some light to someone else’s darkness.
You may be thinking, “but I’ve never been very good at cards,” to which the easy, and truthful, answer is just simply to focus on the power of your words and actions: Send a thoughtful text, tag someone in a photo to make them laugh, send your partner a funny meme that made you think of them,
call your parents to tell them you love them just because, bring your elderly neighbor some farm fresh eggs, or even kick the soccer ball back to that group of kids at the park.
These are all important ways to connect with others on a real, honest, personal level. You don’t need to be a poet, you don’t need to be a word wizard, but you do need to choose compassion when you can - take the more thoughtful path when presented with the option. In the end, getting a letter in the mail, calling someone on the phone, sending a care package, even a few kind words when least expected: these are the things that people take with them. These are the things we remember and hold dear. You never know who you may help, or how you may help them merely by being caring, conscientious, and generous of heart.
Sometimes you do things because it makes you feel good, but sometimes it takes years to realize it makes someone else feel good, too. You can make a lasting impact on others - your words, your actions - these count for something. Never underestimate the power of kindness, because in the end, it only takes a little effort to make a big difference... and just a tad more effort to write the card, buy the stamp, and send the letter to brighten someone else’s day. I promise you, it’s worth it.
A letter to Larry...