Who do you owe a REAL letter?

Photo5_red_ribbonphoto © 2008 Jae | more info (via: Wylio)


This post is dedicated to my friend Jaye.

Almost thirty years ago, (how did we get that old?) we met while exchange students in Austria. Neither one of us had the best host family situations at the time so we retreated to our rooms and wrote letters. We both wrote literally hundreds of letters that year, although I would guess that Jaye may have written more then a thousand. She was so darn prolific it was amazing and I was the lucky recipiant of many.

Oh how I loved getting mail that year. There were no personal computers back then, the television had only three partially broadcasting channels, in German mostly although since my host family was close to the Yugoslavian (yes it was that long ago… even some countries don’t exist anymore!) border we could occasionally get an untranslated american movie , but mostly I spent a lot of time alone with my own thoughts, waiting for the mail. Jaye’s letters were a particular treat because she approached each as a work of art. She used multiple pens, markers and crayons, made doodles in the corners and regularly included other small treats in the envelope.

Long after we left Austria Jaye continued with the letter writing. I could never figure it out. I would drop her a short note and in return I would get a ten page reply. Phone calls were expensive back then and I would never have thought to call and just chat so it was these letters that kept me up to date on her life. When my relatives would be hard pressed, except my mom of course, to come up with my current address, Jaye could always find me. I LOVED getting them even if they always caused enormous guilt because I knew I wouldn’t always reply and if I did it would be with only a few sentences.

After years and years my of limited replies, Jaye has stopped with her prolific updates but even so she still manges a thoughtful card for every birthday and holiday, What makes this even more amazing is that since 2003 we have lived close enough to see each other. My style is to pop over for coffee, or to drop a small token off, in person, when sometimes remembering a holiday but Jaye, also eager for a face to face meet up, still sends a card anyway. She could hand it to me, but she mails it instead and makes it all the more special.

Think about it. When was the last time you have received a letter in the mail? and how wonderful did it make you feel? If not for Jaye, I would have to count the occasional “Family news bulletin” enclosed in a Christmas card. I read your Facebook updates and we exchange the occasional email but I generally don’t give or receive REAL mail.

On Jaye’s last birthday, her friends were invited to tea at her home. She does this every year, gathering her friends for a chance to reminisce and to interact non-digitally. In her invitation she said that presents were not requested but if you wanted to do something  she would like to receive a newsy letter about our day to day lives. She once told me what she misses most about letter writing is the sharing of small day to day details of someone’s life. While some may scoff at “what I had for breakfast” facebook posts, Jaye relishes them as small reminders of letters from the past.

As I write this, I see I have a much over due letter to write.

What about you? Who do you owe a REAL letter? Or who would delight in receiving one from you, perhaps thanking them for the contribution they are in your life?

A letter is a wonderful way to feel and show gratitude. Give yourself and another that gift today!

P.S. You can meet Jaye digitally at: Artquiltmaker Blog but if you prefer to send a letter, I’m sure she would be happy to give you her address!


A delightful blogger, Amy Sullivan recently wrote beautifully on this topic too.

This is direct from her blog:



My grandma and I wrote each other throughout my childhood and into my college years. Her handwriting screamed Catholic school with its perfect loops and delicate curls, but even better than her penmanship was the thought that someone took the time to put pen to paper for me.

Today I have three reasons for you to put pen to paper for someone else.

1. Tornado victims need mail. I watch footage from recent tornadoes, and I feel helpless. I see the devestation of homes and lives, and I long to do something, but what? Big Fat Mama from Cooking Up Faith created a way for us to let those across our country know that even though media coverage involving recent tornadoes has ended, the people piecing their lives back together are remembered. Big Fat Mama offers us the opportunity to write a letter of encouragement and love to those impacted by recent tornadoes, and then email it to her. She will print out all letters and send them to local churches and shelters in areas touched by the storms. Click here for details.

2. People impact you, and they need to hear it. Recently, I ran across the book 365 Thank Yous, by John Kralik. In his book, Kralik committed to write one thank you note each day for a year, and it changed him forever. A couple of days ago, my husband received a thank you note from a boy he coached. Simple and thoughtful. Words are powerful, and so is real mail.

3. Your Compassion Child is waiting. We received a rainbow in the mail, a rainbow created by five-year-old Audry. The great thing about that crudely cut and created rainbow is it reminds us that Audry is more than a smiling girl on a postcard from a far away place. Audry is a real person, and we, the Sullivans, are a tiny part of her life. Click here for tips on writing your Compassion Child, and click here to follow the Compassion Bloggers as they travel to the Philippines. Yep, the Philippines. They are there at this very moment, and in a small way, you can be too.

What about you? What’s the last piece of memorable mail you received?

Posted by Amy Sullivan at 10:20 PM
Labels: Compassion and Letter Writing and Philippines


So how about you? Will you be writing any letters tonight?

6 thoughts on “Who do you owe a REAL letter?

  1. This is such a great post! What a wonderful thing to think on. I am SO bad about mailing notes and cards. As for letters…I haven’t done that since college!

  2. I haven’t yet met your friend Jaye, but I like her very much already…

    I think my blog has taken the place of letter writing for me… It’s a little love-letter full of funny little details from my life…

    • Thanks Margaret B. I know what you are saying about the blog. I find my blog to be another place I can expound, but I still enjoy writing letters.

  3. Yes, you are right I did need to come over today and read your blog post, which promptly made tears well up in my eyes. I don’t write letters to get one back. I just write letters, because I feel like it, I know it will surprise and please someone and it gets me off the computer. Also, the digital trail I am strewing over the web will not be a way that people know about me. It will be from the letters I write. Write a letter to a friend and tell them what you had for breakfast – what you wish you had had for breakfast. xx, my friend, you are very dear to me.

  4. I can remember running to the mailbox as a child, hoping to get a letter from my penpal in Russia or my friends from camp or my cousins or whatever. I wrote and received a ton of letters, and the mailbox was almost like a gift box.

    Nowadays, I write (and receive) a ton of e-mails, but the personal touch is gone, perhaps because the instantaneous nature of getting e-mails right on my phone takes the joy of anticipation out of it.

    Technology is such a mixed blessing ….

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