When was the last time you got an actual letter in the mail? Not an email or a Facebook message, but a real life letter? In the past few weeks, I’ve received two and both have had a significant impact on my emotions and mindset. Both were very unexpected and both are now prominently displayed on my refrigerator so I have constant reminders of these efforts made by two people, who made a much bigger impact than I’m sure they realize.
The first came a couple of weeks ago, shortly after I decided to take next year off of school, extending my leave of absence. I’d had a tough few days in a row with the kids and was also having anxiety about not only the obvious financial challenges but finding time for myself, which I have found I really do need. The letter came from a family friend, who had spoken to my mom recently about my decision. She took the time and energy to write to me and share that staying home when her kids were young, while sacrifices were made, was a decision she’s never regretted. She said, “It is a choice that provides benefits far greater than the dollars you have foregone.” I needed to hear that. Little did the author know that her small act of affirmation was exactly what I needed at that moment.
The next letter came in the mail yesterday, in the form of a card with a very surprising letter inside. A quick back story…my mom, very randomly, received a phone call from my 5th grade teacher several weeks ago. She called just to see how I was doing. How unbelievable is that?! Well, my mom passed on my address and my teacher apparently passed it on to the sender of yesterday’s card. When I saw the return address, I immediately knew it was from my Girl Scout leader/senior year college professor. This woman, who was very important to me at a young age, came back into my life at Miami, as she was a professor of mine during my senior year, which also happened to be her first year of teaching college. No matter what you teach, your first year is incredibly difficult, and she did not try to hide the fact that she was struggling. I remember trying to make her feel comfortable when possible and answering questions when she asked, but I know it was hard for her. But, I haven’t thought much of it these past 11 years. Until the letter yesterday. She also took the time to send me a thank you card for my (very small) actions all those years ago. She accredited my support to her perseverance and shared that she went on to be a very successful professor. Tears definitely came to my eyes while reading this, as I had no idea I had that kind of impact on someone and it meant SO much that she took the time to reach out.
After receiving these, it’s become very clear to me that small acts of effort and kindness can truly make a difference. I immediately wanted to “pay it forward” with my own meaningful mail. I’m sending a letter to that 5th grade teacher, thanking her for the impact she had on my life. She was a kind and loving constant at a time when my life was very confusing and difficult. She’s the reason I became a teacher; I even used some of her lesson ideas in my classroom, over 20 years later. So if you are reading this, I challenge you to take 5 minutes and send someone meaningful mail. It may feel random and even uncomfortable, but you will no doubt make a difference in that person’s day and maybe even their life.