By Meredith Kaiser
Maya Angelou once said that when she prayed for someone, a wonderful thing happened, not only hopefully for the person for whom she was praying, but for her as well.
That is how I feel about my writing. When people ask me, “What do you write?” I usually say essays or I may mention my scattered and incomplete novel. But what I want to say is, “I am a writer of thank you notes.”
Yes, I have written articles for work, essays, blogs, short stories, and pieces of a novel. But really, what I am stirred to write consistently are notes of gratitude, congratulations, encouragement, and sympathy. I also write what I call, “I see you” cards; as in, “I see all that you do or how you are feeling, and it matters.” I can’t explain why I need to do this.
I’ve been told that these cards make people cry. Or laugh. I often cry or laugh as I write them. Before sealing the envelope, I re-read my words several times to listen to what I’ve said. Is this what I want to say? Sometimes I start over. I want each letter to stitch the meaning I intend onto the paper. Is this exactly what I would say to the person if they were in front of me? I’m sure I don’t get it right every time, maybe never. But I believe that a blank note card, filled with my own words and in my own fevered handwriting is the next best thing to eye contact and a solid hug.
Bowing to this impulse, years ago, I began keeping a supply of assorted blank note cards at home and at my office. I keep stamps in my purse at all times. I am a rapid-fire note dispenser. The moment I hear that a co-worker lost her mother or that a friend is having surgery, I can reach out to them by mail to meet them where they are. The beauty of mail is that the recipient has the privacy to receive the message and to take it in how or when she chooses.
I don’t know if that’s what most people think of when they think of a writer, but I know that reaching an audience of one via a handwritten note keeps me setting words on paper. It won’t put me on the New York Times bestseller list, but loving others by doing what I love the most pays the greatest reward, if not the bills.