MAKE & THANKS: FOR INTENTION (A STAMP CHALLENGE)
Scrawling on the postcard took more effort than normal, I won’t lie. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to write it. How to be grateful when I was really hurt. So I just started writing, scribbling words I HOPED were honest, prayed were heartfelt. Words that wedged their way into my soul’s hardened cracks like mending glue.
I was writing the note, not out of obligation, but out of a sincere desire to see the good in this change: a thank you to a fellow writer who didn’t want to collaborate anymore. I didn’t understand his reasons. He said he was done and it was great while it lasted. But he was moving on.
The news hit me like a punch to the stomach. I looked back at what we had created together. I saw it as beautiful. Maybe it wasn’t? Maybe it was all a sham. Was I a terrible writer, a bad friend, a violator of his inspiring work? Yeah, I knew that wasn’t the truth, but it still felt awful.
I felt like I had been caught spraying graffiti on Lincoln’s Memorial. Mostly, it felt like a bad breakup. The feelings tried to pry themselves between the sticky gluey words I was writing. I stopped the pen after the first two sentences of that thank you.
My mother taught me to write thank yous. It was great manners and made the receiver feel good. I remember a yellowed box of cards she kept in her brown heavy sewing drawer. She let me pick blank cards with fuzzy Easter bunnies and green holly Christmas corners to practice my cursive words.
I licked twenty-five cent stamps and slapped them in the right-hand corner of the white envelopes, carefully sealed, carrying precious cargo: words. Thank yous to pen pals who sent me thin exotic letters on blue Airmail paper. Stories of how I would spend the crisp $5 bill a great-aunt or uncle I hardly knew sent for my birthday. Words I didn’t realize were a perfect formula to cultivate gratitude.
We can write thank yous on Instagram and Facebook, Tweet a praise to the world on behalf of a friend, but nothing beats a handwritten thank you. A note that doesn’t take 30 seconds, but 5-10 minutes. A card in an envelope that I buy and slide out of a plastic wrapper. A postcard I purchase on vacation. Cards saved for just the right moment to say thanks, even when we don’t feel it. ESPECIALLY when we don’t feel it.
When we write our thanks and force our hands to make the words, the curves and lines, we give voice to the inner workings of enormous, all-encompassing grace. A feeling we want to feel, a forgiveness we all seek, but don’t know quite how to do. It’s not a forcing, but a leading, of pen and ink.
Writing thanks can make a heart feel a grateful it never knew was there.
THIS is the gratitude I wanted to feel. As I reread my words and picked up the pen again, I sighed and started the rounding writing again, the scribbles I couldn’t quite say, but the words came anyway, a little stifled, a bit sad, but all the same, with thanksgiving.
The physical act of doing what I wanted to, but couldn’t quite bring myself to started to bind up wounds and I wrote thank you, to the person I didn’t understand, but to whom I was indeed beholden. Because this person had spurred me on towards a creativity I never knew I had in me.
How many times had his art helped me see the world painted in beauty? How often had his work challenged me to try something new in mine?
So I scour the internet for the real address, write the name, and remember my former collaborator is a beautiful person and still wants to be my friend. The writing makes me grateful.
Who knew paper and postage peeled up from a shiny white sheet could grow a heart to bursting like the Grinch when he hears the Who’s in Who-ville singing a song of thanks?
I pick up the envelope and march myself across the leafy lawn. When I slide the envelope in the black cave of a mailbox, I feel a hint of stickiness on my index finger. I bring it to my lips and taste the bittersweet. With a swallow, I feel the final crack swelling until its healing is sealed.
Who needs your hand-written thank you? When was the last time you took time out of a hectic day to thank someone? Write a letter this week and mail it to someone who has made an impact in your life. It might just turn both of your days around.