I have always loved writing letters. I remember writing really long notes in 7th grade to my then-best friend. We had a notebook dedicated to letters that we would exchange in algebra class or in the hall in between classes. If we didn’t have the notebook, we would fold our notes into an elaborate heart or simple rectangle and slip it to the other discreetly. Who knows what our 7th grade selves were obsessed with (I really never want to know), but the idea of writing letters and sharing things in written form has continued in my life. Through college, I kept up with my best friend through snail mail, and I still mail letters regularly from Spain back to the U.S. In my adult life, these letters have evolved and changed, but what I have come to realize is that a handwritten letter or note goes a long way toward showing someone how much your relationship is valued.
My mother never understood why I loved checking the mailbox. “Why do you like it so much? It's only bills and junk mail,” she would say as I skipped to the box. Now, as I pay my own bills and receive my fair share of junk mail, I love sending letters to friends to leave a little joy in their mailbox. Receiving a handwritten or typed letter in the mail says something greater than an email or a text message—it says, “you are worth my time and my effort.” It is your sentiments delivered in an unexpected and delightful way. So often we get caught up in the ins and outs of daily life. We are inundated with messages on Facebook, spam mail from stores, requests and demands from work, yet what I have found is that getting a handwritten note in the mail from a friend, no matter how small, has strengthened relationships even with people that I do not keep up with on a regular basis. Email has replaced a lot of snail mail, but the inbox mostly remains the same—work-related items, bills, and junk mail.
A note that says “you matter,” “thank you,” “good luck,” “congratulations,” or even just “miss you” has more of an emotional and relational impact than all the things that fill my inbox on any given week.
Since I have realized this, I decided to take a step towards intentional gratitude. I have begun to use letters and notes to authentically express gratitude for people that have helped me, allowed me to grow, and continue to contribute to my life. Former bosses, colleagues, friends, and family are on that growing list. Those people have been the ones to help me define and design the life that I live. It brings a smile to my face to think of them opening a letter on a random day and knowing that wherever I am in the world at that moment, I care about them, their well-being, and their happiness.