I have a friend, Gail Helgeson, who is a marvelous note-writer. She writes a note to someone every day. She slips little sayings, usually from Mary Engelbreit, into her notes and usually has a sticker or two affixed to the envelope. Her letters are filled with encouragement, swirls, and her signature. Sometimes the notes are small in size, sometimes, they’re cut-and-pasted sayings on construction paper. All keeper words. All soul-touching.
Yesterday, Rick and I were on our way up to our cabin in northern Minnesota, and we took the new way we discovered this summer to get there.
There’s a little book library in a small town we pass through and every time I approach, its insides are stuffed to the brim. Some of the books, (for all ages) are withdrawn ones from the library. Some bear signs from used book stores and some from people’s bookshelves. Most all of them show usage – a marvelous thing.
This book caught my attention.
The rest of our drive, I read aloud to Rick some of the stories and letters. Precious. Meaningful. Some of them, honestly, I wanted to write a thank-you letter to the letter-writers, for their writing. Several are stand-outs. One from a woman who wrote J.R.R. Tolkien and how her life has changed because of reading The Hobbit. Was hard not to tear up reading her letter.
The letter writers range in age from higher elementary through high school. One in particular, one line in the thank-you letter actually, I think is a line I’ll remember forever. Here’s a quick context. A young person wrote a letter to Robert Frost (who, unfortunately had passed at the writing of this letter), thanking him for writing Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
While the poem is beautiful, and is actually one of my favorites, what moved me was the letter writer, who’d moved from the North (Delaware) to the South (Georgia) and was terribly missing her beloved snow.
This young person said thanks to Mr. Frost this way:
“Your poem is my winter. It’s my snow in a small collection of words.” Sincerely, Katja Saana Sinikka Martin
How’s that for grabbing a person.
Wow, twice. Once for jam-packed brevity. Twice – wanting winter to only be present in my life as a poem. I did a search for this person and lo-and-behold, she was the recipient of the Letters About Literature National Award in 2007.
Have you ever written an author a letter? I’ve written a couple authors. Some I’ve heard back from. Some, well, I knew I would not.
But ones I have received, though short, meant a lot. The author cared, could be bothered. Several of the authors were and are extremely busy people who found a glimpse of time and took ten words to acknowledge their thanks to me. One was a prime minister at the time.
My writing thank-you notes to authors put words to my feelings about how they had shaped my life.
Thank-you notes are concrete evidence that we can be influencers (good or not).
As, Mister Rogers said, “Thank you. Two of the best words we can ever learn.”
I fell upon this picture from photographer, Brandon Lopez.
Imagine if these little notes were actually thank-you notes to authors. Wouldn’t that be a window into influencers?
Have you written a note to an author who has been an influence on your life? If so, why did you write it?
Have you ever heard back from an author to whom you’d written a thank-you note?
How did it make you feel?
About Julie Saffrin
Julie Saffrin is the author of numerous published articles and essays. Her latest book, BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life, explores the power of gratitude and offers 120 creative ways to journey toward positive, lasting change.