Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sharpened Focus

This morning I wrote a letter to J, whom I met in college through our campus ministry. In the first part of the letter I thanked her for her friendship: She is someone, I told her, on whom I could always rely to tell me the truth, have my best interests at heart and generally see things in the most positive light--characteristics valuable in any relationship but particularly apropos a couple years ago as I sought her firsthand advice and support as I struggled with issues of infertility. I also remarked that she is such a good role model for her daughter, something I know because she has also served as a good role model for me and others:

You are one of the first people I ever met who so fully embodied the idea of public service and brotherhood ... I have met few people who have your level of commitment to their fellow men and women and to the Earth. Even though it's been years since we've seen each other face to face, let alone day to day, I am still inspired by you to make wiser decisions about my use of resources and my impact on fellow humans. Thank you for serving that role in my life, as an example of less consuming and more giving.

At that point in the letter I then found myself giving my friend what turned out to be the most articulate assessment I've expressed so far of what this project has meant to me. First I told her, as I have others, that writing these letters has underscored the importance of recognizing the people in your life at any given moment and how they're shaping you as they share part of your life journey. But the words that rolled off my pen next persuade me that I have reached a new level of understanding of what that "recognizing people" really means:

It has been so interesting and enlightening to write to friends and family--people I've known practically since birth (I guess that would be my mom!) and those I've known a much shorter period of time, but who still have had an impact--and realize through reflection and exposition the lessons those relationships have taught me. I'm realizing how many people I have to thank for what I know and believe about hard work, fairness, appreciation and gratitude, expectations and, yes, love of fellow man, altruism and social and environmental responsibility.

Sitting there in my recliner this morning, writing the letter to J with my son sleeping in my arms, those words unexpectedly brought the significance of this project into sharp, clear focus--interestingly, at a time when my energy had started to flag somewhat. (Fulfilling a commitment to handwrite 365 letters in 365 days while working full time and raising an infant can be a little much, I've found, and being plagued with a nasty cold--as I was the last couple weeks--can make you question that promise, along with your sanity.)

Suddenly I am infused again with the same excitement I felt as I drew that very first name from THE LETTER JAR--I look forward to the realizations, recollections and recognitions that lie within my next 288 letters. And just as I know my drive will wane again, I am confident it will resurge too--and I look forward to experiencing how that happens.

UNEXPECTED BENEFIT: This project, perhaps not surprisingly, is improving my handwriting! Not that I've ever had what I (or the most likely critics, my teachers and employers) would consider terrible penmanship, but I've noticed that even the non-letterwriting activity for which I typically give little care to my script--meeting notes at work, grocery lists, forms completed for the DMV--is starting to take on a more legible, pleasing look. Only 253 days until next National Handwriting Day on Jan. 23--I've got a head start!

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