Category Archives: Word Gifts

Day 31: Squander

verb – allow (an opportunity) to pass or be lost

Thirty-one days of posts. Thirty-one days of word gift related information. And thirty-one chances to tell someone how much we love them in unique ways. Did you take that chance or did you squander it?

Our days are spent in a whirlwind of activity. We constantly look forward to a day when life will slow down, the kids will take care of themselves, our jobs will be less demanding, our commitments less rigorous. In a week, or a month, or maybe next year, life will slow down, and we’ll have time to accomplish those meaningful things we often dream about. Let’s be honest, those days aren’t coming. Life will always be busy and occupied with the next obligation until time is gone.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the play by Thornton Wilder entitled Our Town.  It is at the top of my list for life-changing and powerful literature. The final monologue by the main character Emily is given from her gravesite (she dies in childbirth in the play.) She’s gone back to her home town for one last look. Take a moment and read the following lines from the play. (If you’d like to watch it, check out this clip.)

Excerpt from Thorton’s Our Town

Emily: Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead. You’re a grandmother, Mama! Wally’s dead, too. His appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it – don’t you remember? But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s really look at one another!…I can’t. I can’t go on.It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back — up the hill — to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?

Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.

Emily: I’m ready to go back.

So many profound lines in such a short monologue, but such a perfect ending to understanding why word gifts are so important. Giving a word gift allows us to “really look at one another,” and understand that “it all goes so fast.” The simple act of writing a word gift allows us to realize how wonderful life is (and the people in it) “every, every minute.” Even better, the word gift recipient understands that we really see them and value them.  And as for the writer we find ourselves among the saints and poets if only for a moment.

Day 30: Value

noun – the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something

Can you think of the last time you received a handwritten letter?  Not a notecard or a birthday card or a post card, but an actual letter? If you’re like me, you can’t.

In a world of technology overload, something handwritten is rare; in fact, it sometimes seems an oddity. Why would someone write a letter and send it via snail mail, when they could simply zip an email to us in mere seconds?  My answer: the power of sacrificed time and personal openness. Catherine Fields in her NYTimes.com essay “The Faded Art of Letter Writing” believes a handwritten letter to be a “deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do.” And it’s in the vulnerability and sacrifice that today’s Word Gift finds it’s being.

I am much better at writing than talking. Oh, I love a good gab with a friend, but if something really important needs to be said, then I sit down with my notebook and favorite pen. Writing keeps me honest. I can express my true feelings on paper in a way that never occurs when I open my mouth. To some, being able to say exactly what you feel might not always be the right thing to say. But I find that when I write a letter, what I need to say is said more effectively, with more kindness, and “speaks the truth in love” better than any conversation I’ve ever had with someone.

Letter writing is not only about the words on paper, but about presentation as well. A crisp, clean white sheet of paper, folded neatly and tucked inside a starched envelope brings a sense of value, exactly what you want the recipient of a Word Gift to feel. Before they ever read a word, they will feel significant. However, once they begin to read the words penned by a friend, spouse, or parent the significance will grow into value.

The subject of the letter could be anything. Maybe simply remembering a special time that they two of you shared would make for a great reminder of their value. We could write about simple days, lived out in ordinary ways, but gave extraordinary comfort. Possibly, encouragement needs to be poured into a discouraged life. A letter can do most anything. It’s only us who need to decide what power it brings to the life of the recipient.

My old scrapbooks brims with handwritten love letters received in high school and college; scribbled notes on tattered notebook paper from best friends lined the corners of memory boxes filled away in my closets. Maybe one or two printed emails could be found in those scrapbooks and boxes, but they aren’t valued quite as much as those written by the hand of a loved one. The curve of their S’s and the dot of their I’s will be a comfort to me when they are gone. Their handwriting connects me to them in a way that the binary letters printed in black and white never could.

So today, sit down and pull out a sheet of pristine paper and begin to pen your love for someone. Let the ink speak words that might never cross your lips. And in years to come, when they rifle through that box of moments, they will pull out the letter from you and feel it’s power all over again.