We’re so pleased to introduce one our newest volunteers, Tina in Canada, whose work behind the scenes to help with our enormous backlog has been absolutely invaluable. Here she writes a warm and lovely tribute to her grandmother, and vividly describes the value and impact of letter writing.
When I served away (in the military) for weeks or months at a time, I imagined life at home coming to a complete stand still. But letters from our homeland remind us that time marches on; babies born, degrees earned, marriages begun (and some ended), promotions and demotions received, loved ones passing — and every life scenario not mentioned occurring in between. It was easy to believe that everyone was wondering what I was doing, the same way I was imagining what they were up to. But without mail, a person feels the sting of being out of sight and out of mind.
Handwriting a letter is mostly a lost art now. In my childhood years, I would receive beautifully hand-written letters from my Grandma Jean on stationary she thoughtfully selected. Often the artwork of the stationary matched the season or even my Grandmother’s mood. Sometimes in her haste to send me a note, she would grab a discarded grocery list or write on the back of a flyer — she never wasted paper, nor the opportunity to re-use a sheet if one side remained bare. I carried on her tradition and enjoy buying cards and sending them to loved ones far away — and even to those near me. I often slip a handwritten note to my children under their pillow, penning a sentiment of how I feel about them or an affirmation of their worth.
Letters say this: you’re worth the time it took to write this, you’re worth the cost of the stamp, you’re worth the walk to the postbox to send it!
This is why Adopt an Inmate has appealed so deeply to my senses. A letter (to an inmate) says: I stopped everything I was doing — to think of you — to reach out to you. In this moment I’m here with you. My friendship is tucked into this envelope. It’s a special part of me and I’ve chosen to send it to you. I hold no record of your wrong-doings. Your offenses do not offend me. This letter comes to encourage you, never to discourage you. My letters to you will carry your birthday wishes and acknowledge the holidays you choose to celebrate. I want to make time in my days to affirm that you matter.
My Grandma’s notes scribbled on the back of a grocery list spoke volumes to me about my worth. They were as important and as cherished as the pop-up birthday cards and sticker-embellished Christmas stationary she would send. My Grandma passed away before I traveled for work, so I never experienced hearing my name called by the Postmaster to say a letter had arrived from her. Her letters would have been a welcome reprieve from the dust and deprivation of the Middle East — but she did establish a set of values in me that I want to pass onto my children and others. Words matter. Words can give life to a dying soul. If you have 20 minutes a month and a stamp, you could write to a person who would be dramatically affected for the better by your compassion to reach out. You don’t need fancy stationary. You don’t even need paper, if email is your preference, but I would encourage you to consider the value of a hand-written or typed note, or even a scribbled note on a postcard. You could be the reason someone has felt love for the first time in a long time. You could be the reason that someone was reminded that they still matter. Mail has a peculiar way of arriving at the exact moment a person needs it most. Please consider adopting an inmate today.
Yesterday’s blog post was a poem and drawing sent to us by Ron in Florida. I showed my 82-year old aunt Nancy the picture, because she loves to see the artwork that prisoners send in. Nancy has lost some of her ability to read and write, but makes a valiant effort when it is important. When I read the title of the Ron’s poem to her, “I Wish Someone Would Pray For Me,” she immediately handed me a pen and asked me to write his name down, so that she could keep it near her bedside and remember to pray for him. I wrote in large letters, RON. She would carry the paper with his name to me several times a day, sounding out the letters, making sure she was saying his name correctly, “RrrrrrrrAhhhhhNnnn.”
A few days later, Nancy came to me carrying a pad of paper, and said she would like to write a letter to Ron. I thought she wanted to dictate to me so I could write it for her, but instead she handed me a letter she had started and wanted to me to check it, to see if it made sense. I assured her that it did, and she shuffled off to finish the letter – which was mailed to Ron yesterday.
She wrote about looking out her window and seeing the beautiful colors of the trees and flowers in her backyard (Nancy loves color), and of the children that came the night before in their Halloween costumes to get candy. “I once did that, did you?”
Won’t Ron be surprised, and blessed, to receive Nancy’s sweet letter, and to know that such an earnest soul is praying for him?
AJ, I picked myself a flower today,
and said they were from you.
Because if you were here with me,
I know its what you would do.
As you walk alone to your dorm,
I walk alone to my car.
I leave a piece of my heart there with you
and take a piece of yours.
I cry my silent tears that only God can see,
until the day that I can bring your whole heart home with me.