When Was the Last Time You Sent a Love Letter?

07/21/2010 06:03 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Dr. Cara Barker Author, Analyst, Keynotes, Founder of The Love Project, Love Fests and Retreats

When's the last time you got something in the mail that wasn't a bill, advertisement, general flyer or catalogue? Even more to the point, when's the last time you received a personally addressed, hand-written envelope, containing nothing other than Love? When did you receive your last Love Letter?

Mail carriers around the world are toting unimaginable weight in their mailbags these days. Yet there are few deliveries that come close to conveying what promotes healing and renewal for your exhausted mind, heart and soul. Trash cans overflow with what doesn't matter, trees are downed with scant purpose when it comes to what endures the test of time.

The volume of handwritten letters is nearly non-existent. For the past year, I've been conducting an informal survey wherever I go with postal workers. I've asked them each the same question, regardless where they work: "How often do you deliver letters which are addressed by hand, appearing personal in nature, judging by the envelope?" While it's hardly anything approximating a scientific study, the answer has been resounding, especially for those on the "beat" 10 years or longer who remember days gone by. I'm told in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, Santa Fe, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Columbus, Eugene, Portland, Tampa, Sarasota, and Atlanta, that the frequency of handwritten cards is "definitely down" and letters are becoming an extreme rarity.

The deficit makes it hard to receive the benefit such an investment provides.

The Importance of Contributing to Sustainable Love. When someone spends time and energy recording their appreciation in a hand-written letter, it is a rarefied gift with many dividends. Are you maximizing the benefit of writing and receiving them? If not, why not? Sure, we're busy. But, the truth is the day will come when you won't be here.

All I know is that when I receive a hand-written letter, the joy prompts me to make a correction in what I'm doing, and prepare the atmosphere to give the gift its due. Here are some tips to maximizing this investment, when you receive or are preparing to send a hand-written letter:

  1. Clear away all other concerns at the end of your day.
  2. Prepare a cup of something hot, refreshing, nurturing. ( I make a pot of tea.)
  3. Create a ritual that reflects the importance of this focus. Perhaps this might include lighting a candle, or turning on a favorite piece of music.
  4. Sit down, put your feet up. Take time to breathe, let go the cares of the day.
  5. Study the handwriting on the letter. Appreciate the intention behind it.
  6. Open, savor, receive. Savoring the moment is good for your immune system, lowers your blood pressure, and insures well-being. Savoring helps us re-establish connection with the fact that we are inter-related beings, connected to a Greater Life and Love, too often overlooked in the noise of everyday life, and throes of hyper-connectivity.
  7. Send silent appreciation to the source of this gift, and to yourself, for taking the time to receive it properly. It's so tempting to fall into the litany of justifications, for why you "don't have the time." Yes, there are other ways, social networks, e-mail, and the like. Then, there's the Internet possibility of actually seeing who you are conversing with online, which is remarkable, at the very least, making global connection possible for families, corporations, foundations and governments around the world.

And, yet ... it's hard to bundle up those messages with a ribbon, to be read now, and not only remembered later, but reread, down the road, as the need for recalling gratitude arises. There's just something about seeing the mark of someone's hand on the page, the way they etch their unique way of expressing themselves with neither tools like spell nor grammar check that leaves the Voice of Love intact in very organic ways. Leaving our tracks, in beautiful ways, is a gift that costs us nothing.

Am I the only one? Hardly sentimental, I can easily toss out nearly everything that's use has come and gone, with nary a regret, (including photograph albums and, yes, yearbooks). And, yet, there's this one secret stash remaining in my files. Here, tucked away from the world, there is a small bundle of letters and cards which I have saved over the years. Few have made the cut like these. I'll bet either you, or someone close to you, possess something similar.

For example, my own contains an age-stained letter from my father, who died in 1974, one from my mother, who died in 1982, several from my son who passed in 1991, and others as well. This is not a place I visit often. But, in a recent move, as I was cleaning out, I came across this treasure trove, including the stain of my mother's tears spilling across her favorite midnight blue fountain pen ink as she penned a rare expression of feelings. A card from my son's summer camp still carries the smudge from his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Appreciating these tracks of love, I began to wonder. In view of what postal carriers are telling me, what sort of time capsule are you leaving behind with your marks? What remains of your love have been expressed, lately, are housed in someone's private Fort Knox of the heart? What evidence are you leaving behind to those who've touched your heart, and helped shape your life in meaningful, appreciative ways? Where are you leaving the fingerprint of your love behind today, as those who've gone before us?

An Archetype of Marking

Eight years ago, while taking a group to explore some of the earliest markings of cave art in a series of French caves, I was reminded of the power of the human urge to leave record that we were here, traveling our own path, wishing to record the journey for those who follow. As I rounded the corner, crawling on my knees, along the floor of a cave whose markings go back 25,000 years, I was stopped in my tracks. There, on the middle of the wall, was one small, clear handprint in a reddish-brown pigment. Now, if you think about it, this was no easy feat, for whoever left it, for in that period, there was hardly electricity, or any excavation, at all. So, whoever left it, did so with a strong Spirit of exploration, determination, and courage. The stalagmites, alone, could have done the "artist" in. So, I asked the guide: What have the archeologists figured out about the print?

Apparently whoever left the mark was a young girl, around 14 years old, accompanied by a dog. (Amazingly, scientists have means of measuring, and then, speculating, despite the time lag between then and now.) There you have it. For some reason, the two set out on a voyage of discovery, and evidence remains, today that they lived, were together, and the one who left the print had faith that others would follow, bear witness, and share the findings.

What evidence are you leaving of your love, your exploration, your experience? Where's your trail of markings communicating the difference others are making in your world? What letter have you written, by hand, lately, that is so real that someone you love is touched, their heart uplifted, their Soul fed by the simplicity and Truth of you expressing you, as only you can?

A Call to Action

I say we give the mail carriers fewer magazines to carry, and more Love Letters! I say we challenge ourselves to take out a pen, paper, and make a record of our Love in gentle, simple ways that bring Grace alive by reaching out and touching someone today. All it takes is a one-liner. That can be as powerful as Will Shakespeare if it is penned by you! Never underestimate the healing power of your heartfelt expression.

... To be continued, with some ideas and tools.

I'd love to hear from you. What message have you received through the mail that has been significant to you? What words have made a difference in your life? What signature or handwriting would you most like to see again, or receive in the mail, if it were possible? What's the most important letter you've ever received? Who needs to hear from you in a heartfelt way today? 21 Day Challenge, anyone?

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