Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Letter

I walked back from the mailbox, clutching the day's messages. In the wind gusts here, it's incredibly easy to lose an important bill or something along those lines. However, in today's collection of mail, there was something different.

He stood at the door, excitedly watching me walk up the driveway. I'm sure that, in his seven-year-old mind, I was moving much too slowly. He could hardly contain himself, bouncing in place, as he asked, "Is there anything for me?"

The look of utter joy (and the shriek that accompanied it) when I answered that, yes, he did receive a letter, was adorable. Here, in front of me, was joy in it's purest form: the joy of a relationship.

He took the letter from my hand with nervous anticipation evident in his moves. He immediately ripped open the envelope and sat in the chair to see what was inside. Inside was a simple card, beautifully decorated, with a handwritten message inside. It wasn't a happy birthday greeting, or even a thank you note....but simply a message to say hi and that someone was thinking about him.

As I watched him enjoy this connection to another human, I began to think about my own mail. All that was left in my hands were bills, junk ads, and a few business-related pieces for my husband. Not one personal connection in the bunch, unless you try to count the car payment, since we did actually initiate those mailings through an in-person encounter. Even in my expert rationalizing, that's a pretty big stretch.

As human beings, we're MADE to interact. We're meant to be in communication with others. But are we still? Sure, we all Facebook and text....but are these meaningful communications? Are we really investing in our relationships with these 30 second interactions?

I know that this topic is everywhere, but I think it really hit home to me today, watching my son open his letter. That letter gave him 15 minutes of pure joy. It took the sender at least 15-20 minutes of concentrating fully on my son, thinking about him and about what he was doing/thinking/feeling, to complete the message and stick it into the mail. In his 7 year old person, it was evident that he could FEEL that care and concern in his heart and mind.

I'm hugely guilty of relying on Facebook and email to communicate. It's a pain to try and make a phone call with 3 kiddos playing in an open-concept house filled with tile. It's loud, even when they're not being loud. Add in the 3 hour time change between me and most of my family/friends....and phone calls are very easy to rationalize away. So, I default to a quick text message or Facebook post.....and I'm beginning to really regret it.

How many of us blog? Blogging is a relatively new concept. Before, it was a pen and a journal, right? We didn't go distributing copies of our journal entries...most of the time, we hid them from everyone else, right? (This is based purely on observation - I never kept a journal myself, believe it or not). Why do we blog now? I would guess it's because we're not being heard when we communicate with others. Think about it: if all we're doing to talk to other people is online or via text messages.....we're not truly being heard. There's not a conversation happening - we're talking to someone else, but not WITH them. I think that's why I blog, for sure. I don't have anything hugely fascinating to write about - I'm just a stay at home mom of three rascals. That's it. But yet, I blog. I think I blog because I need to talk to more than just my husband (although we do talk, a lot, he's pretty much the only person that I have regular, in-person conversation with).

I know I haven't written much about World Youth Day at all. I don't think I've blogged about it at all, actually. One of the things that struck me most about WYD (other than the experience of seeing the universal Church, which was incredibly overwhelming), was that when we were with others, we were truly WITH them. We had some cell phones sprinkled among our group, but the cost was SO prohibitive to use them, that we pretty much only used them for quick logistics issues (i.e. "I can't find the group, what street corner are you standing on?"). Email access was spotty, at best, and wasn't a reliable way to communicate with anyone. Basically, what it boiled down to was the person standing right in front of us was who we were talking to, and who we were listening to.

And you know what happened? We had the most amazing conversations. We actually talked and listened to each other. I learned so much from others....just purely because I had no other distractions. I was investing my time and energy into hearing what they had to say. Now, I truly believe the Holy Spirit had a role in all of our relationships during that 2 weeks...but for once, we were able to listen to Him. We could actually take time to listen.

I know we're a hugely global society today. A lot of us don't live right around the street from our families or best friends. I understand that - that's the situation we find ourselves in, too. I'm not at all suggesting or implying that we can only have meaningful relationships if we can have in-person conversations. Are in-person conversations important? Definitely. When we're with someone, we need to be with them, focusing on them, listening to them.

We can build relationships long-distance. All kinds of relationships (this is coming from someone who lived across the ocean from her significant other for a year, so I do have some experience there). But what it takes, on our individual parts, is commitment to hearing the other person. Take time to actually think about them and what they've told you or might be experiencing.

If you have a chance, take the time to actually write and mail a letter. We adults can experience that same joy that my 7 year old did when we open the mailbox. Getting a handwritten note, instead of only getting bills, can truly make someone's day. We're human beings, meant to be in relationship with each other.....let's work on fostering those relationships by caring and loving each other...and making sure they know it!

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