I dropped my kids off at school this morning and realized I had three voice messages still not listened to. One, from my friend Beth took me totally by surprise. She left me the most thoughtful, kind, amazing message and totally made my day. The reason she had called was simply to thank me for the time we spent together a few days prior and to tell me how much she always enjoyed our time, our friendship, and our amazing talks. Needless to say, it brought tears to my eyes.
Her message rekindled the passion I have always had for words, particularly written- they are so powerful and can be used for both good and bad. Think about it, get a complement and you feel like a million bucks. Receive a snide remark and instantly- you are upset. Oftentimes we forget the power of our words. What if you were to do for someone else today what Beth did for me? Does anyone come to mind?
I’ll never forget the thrill of writing letters to people, about ten years after graduating high school, to tell them how they impacted my life: Jug and Jerry, who hired me as a freshman to work at the Dairy Queen. I worked there all through high school. Jerry’s favorite saying was, “If you have time to lean you have time to clean!” She would hang your addition mistakes on the wall for everyone to see with big red pen corrections and weigh our Sundays to make sure we were not over serving. Yet her guidance and expectations for excellence is what created my strong work ethic today. I learned so much from both her and Jug. They both died within five years of receiving my letter. I am so grateful I wrote it. They changed my life for the better.
There was also the Spellman family who secretly paid for my travel expenses to Florida (I grew up in Ohio) when our cheerleading team made it to the National Championships. Raised by a single mom, I simply couldn’t afford to go. My coach took me aside one day and told me that someone had paid for my expenses but wanted to remain anonymous. When I looked at my airline ticket, the name Spellman appeared. While they didn’t want me to know then, years later I had to send my thanks- again, their generosity changed my life and I wanted them to know.
I loved writing the letters because I wanted each person to feel good about the impact they had made on my life. There are many more I wrote that year and even today I love to send random notes to people who deserve to be told how special they are. It brings me incredible joy. There are times I get busy and forget but I always come back to it. In the last year I’ve also started writing letters to my children, saying all the things I want them to know at that given time: Life lessons, words of love, what I am proud of…all with the stroke of a pen. While those letters might seem silly today- I imagine one day when I’m no longer here they will become more precious than gems.
So take the time to stop, write a letter, seal it in an envelope, hand write the address, and paste a stamp on the right hand corner. Use the art of the written word today to change someone’s life tomorrow. Oh- and your voice? Use it often and remember its power for good.
Written by Traci Shafer Bild
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