This Lent I’ve decided to take on a challenge that speaks to my desire to be in better connection with others — in ways that are a bit more meaningful and tangible than texts and Facebook messages. I’m going to send 40 handwritten notes to 40 people in 40 days.
I write three pages every morning. (OK, almost every morning.) And when I say, “write,” I mean longhand, actual writing, pen-and-paper writing. I usually write in a journal, but I’ve been known to write on the margins of magazine pages, and even an actual calendar, when I still had one that wasn’t on my mobile phone.
That, in part, fuels my interest in writing handwritten notes to people — and going “analog” in a digital world. So, it’s back to the basics: a simple card and a pen. I have stamps, greeting cards, postcards, stationery, and even Sushi-nery (photos will follow later in Lent).
My first card is a “get well” wish for Frances Helen, a member of my church. I actually met Frances Helen the first Sunday I visited the church in August 2003. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. You walk into a church, don’t know anyone, and who is the first person to greet you? A little old lady with a warm smile who is absolutely delighted to see a young person in church. In addition to being a welcoming woman with a beautiful smile, Frances Helen is a retired United Methodist minister. Her parents were missionaries, primarily in Asia. In the 1940s, her family was serving in the Philippines when Japan invaded, and they lived in a prison camp for a time.
As you might imagine — someone like Frances Helen has a million stories to tell. Stories about her family’s travels and work as missionaries. Stories about her father starting a “school” in the prison camp so children could continue to learn. Stories about going to seminary and being a pastor in Florida. And then the general chitchat about the motley crew that makes up our church family.
Last summer, France Helen was in the hospital and then a nursing home recovering from illness. Not too far from my office, I was able to go and have meals with her a few times and listen to some of the stories I mentioned above. Now, after recovering from her illness last summer, she’s broken her arm. And it’s broken in a very inconvenient place — her upper arm — and not healing like it should. Hoping to avoid surgery because of her age, Frances Helen is resting, not moving around too much, and hoping and praying that her arm will heal on its own.
So, that’s my first note — to Frances Helen. I hope you’ll join me in praying for her. She would appreciate it!
And if you’re still looking for a Lenten practice/challenge/discipline — join me in sending handwritten cards and notes to the people you know. Maybe even some who you don’t know. I would love to hear from you — firstname.lastname@example.org. I also regularly check the Busted Halo Facebook page, so you can message me there or leave a comment below.