Sunday, June 13, 2010

Signed, Sealed ... Delivered?

Tonight I found myself, for the first time, actually not knowing where to send a letter. I signed it, I sealed it, but I didn't know how to deliver it.

I'd written the letter in question to a police lieutenant who had been a source of mine back when I was a newspaper reporter. This lieutenant, as I told him in my letter, had been a tough but fair source who made me work harder. I was a better reporter because of him, and I wanted him to know that.

After finishing the letter, I "Googled" him just to confirm he was still with the same police department, so I could send the letter there.

Turns out he was a lieutenant with that same force ... up until just this last March, when he retired. If only I'd drawn his name sooner from THE LETTER JAR.

Well police lieutenants, for good reason, don't make their home addresses public. "Where was I going to send the letter?" I wondered.

Ultimately I settled for sending it to the police department's public information officer, who had written the press release about the lieutenant's retirement. I explained to her the project and asked that she please pass on the enclosed letter if she is still in contact with the lieutenant.

Expecting some skepticism on her part, I named a couple other lieutenants (sergeants at the time I knew them) who could vouch for my identity and encouraged her to read the enclosed letter should she have any doubts about its content.

This isn't the first time I've written a letter to one person and sent it to someone else. Before composing another letter--interestingly, also to a news source (this one a politician) whose expectations of me I felt made me a better reporter--I Googled the person to see if I could still find him. Turns out he'd died in 2006. I still wrote the letter, but to his wife--I told her I was sorry to read of his passing and how her husband had been a positive influence in my career. The gracious letter I received in return, thanking me for my words and telling me how touched her husband would have been to know he made a difference in someone's career, was the very first reply I received in the course of this project.

This, however, is the first time I've been left wondering if the letter will ultimately reach its intended destination. Kind of a new twist on the tree falling in the woods with no one around: if you write a letter but the recipient never sees it, does it make a difference?

No comments: