Day 40, April 22, 2020
“A Good Letter”
We are carving out a week of this Cornoavirus Crisis to focus on the word “good”, a word that captures the beauty and wonder of God’s creation displayed so marvelously in the seven days of Genesis chapter one. Today we turn our attention to a “good” letter.
I used to have a mailbox in my office. It was in our church in Houston. Our youngest son, Alex, had stapled some papers together to make a mailbox that he taped up to the bookcase in my office. His handmade mailbox had my name on it. This was a long time ago, when Alex was a little guy and he was attending preschool at our church. Sometimes he would write me a note during his class. You can imagine the joy it brought to find a small letter, scratched out in the hand of a four-year old, stuffed into my personal mailbox.
In “The Genesee Diary”, Henri Nouwen chronicles his effort to withdraw from his normal life by taking an extended retreat. He writes, “My original idea was: No telephone, no letters, neither outgoing nor incoming, no visitors, no contact with guests—a real retreat, alone with God.” As he writes of his experience, he said most of his plans were coming through except the letter writing. He found himself both writing and receiving letters. It turns out he was glad for the letters he received. Reflecting on the importance of letters he writes, “A good letter can change the day…”
One of my closest friends in high school was Rudy. We played basketball together and spent countless hours on the court, in the locker room, on the bus, and even in the classroom. When I moved away from my hometown at the age of 19, I lost touch with Rudy. Many times, I would think of him and how much he meant to me, but I never acted on those feelings to reach out. Then in the fall of 2016, living on the other side of the nation from my hometown in California, I found out Rudy was attending church with another friend of mine. He told this other friend to, “Say hi to Wayne.” This other friend gave me Rudy’s address. I wrote Rudy a note.
And then it happened. On a crisp and cool fall day I was bringing in the mail. A simple white envelope had my name on it, written in pencil. The return address said, “Rudy”. Before I even opened the letter, I smiled. I did more than smile. I had tears in my eyes. I had tears in my eyes and joy in my heart. For the few minutes I read Rudy’s letter the years collapsed and there we were, two people sharing the gift of friendship. Henri Nouwen writes, “A good letter can change the day…” I know exactly what he means. My guess is that so do you.
When Nouwen writes about a good letter changing the day, he is advocating for letter writing as a form of ministry…. An important form of ministry. “A good letter can change the day for someone in pain, can chase away feelings of resentment, can create a smile and bring joy to the heart.” Knowing these things to be true, Nouwen continues, “After all, a good part of the New Testament consists of letters, and some of the most profound insights are written down in letters between people who are attracted to each other by a deep personal affection. Letter writing is a very important art, especially for those who want to bring the good news.”
I like that. If you are looking for a form of ministry that can change the day for someone and is an important art for those who want to bring the good news, the answer might literally be right at your fingertips. Write a letter. It might be the very thing someone else needs. It might be the thing that changes their day. It might be just what we need to make it through this Coronavirus Crisis.
With the love of Christ,