My Letter-Writing Campaign: Letters are miracles that resurrect a mailbox.

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

This past summer, I had the pleasure of being asked to write letters (only letters) to my niece, Rachel, as she began her college career at West Point. From July 2 to August 15, she was in boot camp. She and the other new cadets were not allowed any other form of correspondence, aside from one strictly-timed 10 minute phone call per week to parents. The absence of any other forms of communication made these letters so much more important, for both of us.  I thrilled at the opportunity to communicate with her in such a potent way.  And, as she was beginning an important new part of her life, she had a good deal of quiet in which to contemplate the messages she received.

A personal letter has lasting value. “The medium is the message,” said Marshall McLuhan, and surely the letters I wrote to my niece bear the truth of that sentiment, for the singular elegance of an actual letter gives the content a new weight.  Written communication does not always require, or even deserve, permanence, but letters from home should last long. As such, I included ideas that have real value, discussed things rarely present in day-to-day chatter.  In the letters, I was able to encourage and celebrate my niece more fully than ever before.  At the midpoint of her experience, I wrote “I hope you are feeling incredibly strong. Yes, you are strong, and you should feel it as fully as possible. Feel the extraordinary strength of your body, mind, character, and will.” Extraordinary affirmations flourish in letters. I’d never say something so true in casual conversation.  I could be honest and earnest. While not terribly new, I was able to provide my niece with a truth I wish I encountered more frequently, “The more we know and accept ourselves, the happier we can try to be in life.” Whether she chose to listen or not, the ideas are undiminished.

I cherished the opportunity to share what little wisdom I possess. I made certain to include copies of my favorite poems for her to read, providing her with the endless gift of poetry. I felt compelled to include Robert Pinsky’s “Samurai Song,” a poem rich with resilience. The opening lines promise remarkable edification; “When I had no roof I made/Audacity my roof. When I had/No supper my eyes dined.” Here is the strength of spirit required to withstand hardships, to endure.

Rachel completed boot camp. There is no longer a need to write her letters, but I will persist. I will endeavor to offer her words worth reading again and again.


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