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Monday, December 14, 2009

A Writer’s Gift: The Personal Letter

I am still thinking about the gift of hand-written letters. Inspired by Patty Digh’s blog, 37 Days, one year during the Lenten season I decided to write a letter a day to someone who had influenced my life in a meaningful way. The act of thinking about significant people in my life and writing out just what it was about them that impacted my life was both inspiring and humbling. I never sent those letters and that isn’t really the point: perhaps the whole purpose of that exercise was the message it held for me, for it brought me back to my core values and put me back on a very specific path in my life.

The gift of writing extends far beyond our original intent and far beyond both the writer and the reader. One of my personal treasures is a hand-written letter from Jesse McAnally to Eliza Potts during the Civil War.

Eliza Potts was my grandmother’s grandmother and Jesse McAnally was her father. That’s four and five generations before me. The content in the letter is not particularly profound, but it’s endurance through all these generations is. That letter is a witness to family love; it is a record of the details of living during the Civil War; it is evidence that my ancestors are in fact the stuff I am made of; and it is a piece of genuine communication between two people.

Our means of communication are so sophisticated today and really, quite impressive. But I wonder what aspect of this technology will be witness to five generations from now of who we were and how we lived? A hand-written letter provides a piece of soul and spirit that just doesn’t come across in electronic devices. A hand-written letter demonstrates characteristics and nuances that are found in the unique shape of the letters and even in the energy absorbed by the paper. I believe in these things; I do.


  1. River,
    This is absolutely beautiful! I love the way you wrote it--and I love the sentiment too. Also, the idea of sending out a letter every day to someone who has impacted your life fits in with some of the ideas I've been pondering. Now I just need to take action! Maybe we could challenge our group to do something like this in the new year.

  2. Great idea, Linda,let's talk about it at the rock painting event.

  3. I love this.

    Thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment on One Person, Every Day. As you could see, I'm in a slump! I got behind. I really, really, really miss it. You have inspired me to post tomorrow--no matter what. THANK YOU!