Thursday, January 27, 2011


I always heard as a child -- and slowly have come to believe as an adult -- that everything happens for a reason.

It would seem the Letter Jar and the responses it  attracts are no exception.

Recently I wrote to my friend M, a graphic designer whom I met while working at a community college in New Mexico. I told her how much I admire not only her creativity but also her openness, inquisitiveness and energy.

You approach life with the attitude that there is always something new to learn, always a way to expand your horizons and your understanding. That kind of living is unique and refreshing and something I aspire to ... you're not afraid to test your own limits and I think that's very, very awesome.

I should have known that news of M's latest exploits -- which she recounted briefly in an e-mail after receiving my letter -- would serve as a well-timed, much needed boost when I was weary in the pursuit of my own passions. Turns out M recently quit her job as a designer and is one month away from a degree in massage therapy, an achievement she'll follow by moving to Idaho to train as a Kung Fu instructor. Ultimately she'll move back to New Mexico to open a studio where she'll offer -- you guessed it -- massage therapy and Kung Fu lessons.

I decided sometime at the beginning of last year that I needed to change something in my life. I was feeling very unhappy at [the community college] and it was more because I needed a change ... I'll do massage therapy during the day and Kung Fu at night. Sounds dreamy! Doesn't it?

Were it anyone else, the whole dream might seem odd. But I know M and I know that one day I'll be visiting her highly successful studio -- when she sets her mind to something, she doesn't let up. I call her unique brand of ambition "ferocity and focus."

And what do I call the fact that her e-mail showed up on a day when my own confidence was sagging, when I needed inspiration to stay true to my own odd -- but just as beloved -- dream of the Letter Jar project and accompanying book?

I call that luck. Or, as my Jewish friend A would say, "bashert." I wrote about my good fortune of sharing dinner with him when he traveled to Chicago from Albuquerque for a conference last year, just days after he received my letter. That night we marveled at how I just happened to write when I did -- we hadn't talked in several years. "It's Bashert, he said. "It's a Yiddish word and there's no exact translation in English, though fate comes close."

Truly. Call it bashert, or fate, or even just plain old luck -- responses to The Letter Jar seem to consistently bring me the right words at the right time. I can only hope that's true for some of the letters I send, as well.

MAIL FROM A FELLOW MAILER: I guess I ought to have expected that respondents to a blog about letter-writing would be an eclectic bunch. One such reader is Sheryl at, a website whose name kind of says it all. Sheryl e-mailed to let me know about her new blog post, "10 Reasons Why Mail Can Be Late." Wondering why that letter bound for Phoenix took a detour through Fayetteville? Read on. And thanks Sheryl for visiting The Letter Jar!

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