When I was a child back in the 1960’s, my brothers and I received Christmas gifts of cash from our Iowa grandparents. The envelope was a predictable shape – long and narrow – and contained a special paper holder with a hole showing the face on the bill.
The thrill of receiving real money in Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian denominations was quickly quenched by our mother’s urgent insistence that we sit right down and write a thank you note to our grandparents.
We got a box of these notes every single Christmas. How I resisted that chore! How I resented having my pleasure in receiving the present so quickly squashed by the weight of this obligation! I did it though. I sat down and wrote my rote thanks in neat printing – or later, cursive.
Lately I’ve taken up sending handwritten notes again — this time with great pleasure.
Several times a week I bring a blank card to my breakfast table with the envelope stamped and ready. Sipping my coffee I consider who will be the recipient of today’s missive. Sometimes it’s for a friend going through a challenging patch. Other times it’s to express gratitude to a work colleague who connected me with someone interesting. Today it was to a graduate of my Full Voice Coach Training course who stepped in as my apprentice at an out of town workshop last weekend.
I enjoy so many things about this practice. Here are a few:
Mindset: Starting off my day in the spirit of gratitude and appreciation for people in my life makes for a better day.
Brevity: A card has a limited amount of space for whatever thoughts I want to convey. I call upon my poet self to find the simplest, most heartfelt way to say what’s on my mind.
Touch: I’ve always loved the act of handwriting. As I follow the intertwining lines of my thoughts and my pen, I imagine the recipient’s eyes tracing each word. It creates an embodied connection between us.
Surprise: I like planting a little surprise in someone’s day. There nestled among the heap of junk mail and bills they find something real and beautiful. It’s a little ambush of affection in an unexpected place.
Here’s the strange thing.
Since I began doing this practice a few weeks ago, I’ve been receiving a lot of notes myself. And not from the people I’ve been sending them to! One of the Full Voice coaches wrote to express gratitude for our connection and shared work. Another friend wrote a little note of encouragement after she saw me exhausted and drawn at a choir rehearsal. And a client enclosed a handwritten note of appreciation with payment for a keynote speech I did for her group.
Handwritten notes are flying in and out of my mailbox like brightly colored birds.
And that makes me happy.