And the Word Is…

Yesterday I wrote about our church’s Star Sunday tradition, and how eagerly I  was anticipating choosing my word for 2011.  Over the past ten years, here are some of the other words I’ve chosen at random from the large stack of stars, layered face down in the offering plate:

  • Music (twice!)
  • Stories
  • Reading
  • Imagination
  • Practice

Today’s word – letters – comes on the wake of this entry in my writing journal on December 31, 2010, as  I thought about the popularity of memoir writing, and contemplated writing out some of my own life story:

Gone are the days when people wrote letters in longhand, and saved their correspondence so at some point in the future their children and their children’s children could read them.  Have memoirs become the letters of the future?  Our letters to the world about who we were, how we became the person we did, why we matter?

Letters have actually been on my mind for the past several weeks, and I started thinking about them when a fellow writer/blogger posted a Tweet to the effect that she was longing to get a handwritten letter in the mail.  It made me remember the days when Jim and I corresponded by hand on a daily basis – he was in college (all of 35 miles away!) and we faithfully wrote each other long epistles every single day.  Both sets of letters are in boxes in our basement, ordered chronologically (from September 1973 to January 1974).  They serve as a tangible reminder of a particular period in our lives, and it may be that one day our children (or our children’s children) will read them and feel a tug of recognition in their hearts.

For a moment, I wondered why the word “letters” would appear in our Star Sunday collection.  But then I realized that letters were hugely important in the literary canon of the Christian church. The New Testament includes fourteen of Paul’s epistles to the various towns and cities he visited, as well as seven other general epistles by other disciples such as James, Jude, and Peter.  These letters were crucial in keeping the new Christians informed about the progress of the faith, and reminding them to remain steadfast in their beliefs after the apostles had left their cities.

Letters have also played a huge part in literary relationships and history over the course of generations.  The correspondence between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville West comes to mind, as does Emily Dickinson’s epistolary romance with Thomas Higginson.

I’ve been musing about what this word means for me, a woman in the 21st century who dabbles in writing and uses the internet to tell her stories.  I no longer write “letters” in the ordinary use of the word.  But I wonder if my writing here can become a modern day epistle – a chronicle of life in general and my own in particular that stands over time and allows the world to know who I am, how I became the person I did, and why I matter.

Because we all matter in this great cosmic scheme of life, we all have a star to follow.

May yours shine brightly and illuminate your way.


13 thoughts on “And the Word Is…

  1. I had a box of letters and notes from my teen years. The notes were folded five ways, so they looked like a present– the way all young girls used to do. I can still remember how fun it was to get letters in the mail. And you know what I did?? I threw them out! I tossed them in my mid-twenties… and the time it felt liberating. But I’d love to look through that box now. Today, I save cards from my best friend, my mom and husband, especially if they’ve written something inside.

    Wondering what my “one word” for this year is…

    • I also have a box of letters that my mother-in-law and father -in- law wrote to one another during the early years of their marriage when she went back to Colorado to visit her family. These were written in the late 1940’s, and are VERY interesting.

      I save cards too, which gets to be ridiculous. But always save the cards from your children…someday you’ll really appreciate those.

      • Wow- I think that’s amazing. Just like in those Nicholas Sparks movies. 🙂 I just started a box of my son’s artwork and such… I’m hoping to do better at archiving than I have in the past.

  2. I have a friend who is a consummate writer of postcards. She loves sending and receiving them. The challenge is in finding the funkiest image, the joy is in becoming involved in her life in a unique way.
    I think you chose the perfect star–and that it is rising!

  3. Letters is a great word! I used to love getting and writing long letters. Those have been replaced with phone calls, FB postings and emails. I have just a few old postcards and notes from my great aunts to my grandparents and some of my other grandmother’s letters. It is so great to read the snippets of information and wonder about their daily lives. And I love reading books written as correspondence–I like Lillian’s idea of writing a memoir in letter form–that makes me think of what I could do! And I like the idea of sending postcards too. Maybe we will have to start our own little snail mail revolution!

    • There is an internet group called Postcrossing (I think) that you sign up and send postcards to people all over the world. I’ve thought about joining that…

  4. I used to write tons of letters to all my friends and I still have all the ones I received tucked in a box in the basement. But me too, I’ve given up writing hand-written letters. The internet has taken over and I seem to be constantly on a keyboard rather than be holding a pen. it’s sad in some way isn’t it?

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