A Word Fitly Spoken (Written)…

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers’ declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations.
―W. H. Auden

Are there very many things better than receiving a well-written, heartfelt letter?  These days, letter-writing is nearly a lost art.  But there are numerous reasons not to let it go extinct.  Soldiers, students, prisoners and the rest of us all appreciate that tangible expression of caring from another.  Many of our armed forces personnel defending the cause of freedom in Afghanistan love getting letters.  As Capt. Tony Rivers puts it, “An e-mail is not very personal, but when you have that piece of paper in your hands, you have that ecstasy of the ink.”  Sgt. Joseph Glenn says, “Sometimes it’s hard emotionally to get mail, but it makes you feel wanted and loved.  I know I’m spoiled.  I get more mail than the other soldiers, and sometimes I feel bad about it.”

I know how he feels.  I get cards and letters from folks all the time.  The vast majority are warm, kind, positive and encouraging.  A few take a rather different tone (and as an aside to one writer in particular “dirty” has only one t and “skunk” has two k’s).  I appreciate them all.  Well, some more than others, anyway.  These missives are important enough to me that I save them, which makes me wonder how much they would mean to those who could really benefit from an encouraging word.  Folks like…

  • A new mother who feels inadequate and overwhelmed by the task of raising her new baby.
  • A single mother who faces the daunting challenge of raising her children alone.
  • A teenager who is struggling to find his place in the world.
  • A student who is working hard to excel in her studies.
  • A new Christian who doesn’t know many others in the congregation.
  • A husband who is trying desperately to save his marriage.
  • A father who has lost his job and is facing great financial pressures.
  • A woman who is recently divorced and who suddenly sees herself as an outsider.
  • A teacher who keeps plugging away and making a difference in the lives of others.
  • An elder who rarely hears anything except complaints.

The New Testament portrays Barnabas as a powerful force in encouraging disciples to remain true to the faith (Acts 9:27; 11:23; 14:22).  We can imitate his example by writing notes to those who stand in need of an encouraging word.  Don’t be discouraged if you’re not Shakespearean in your prose; it is the thought that counts.  Ella Wheeler Wilcox writes, “A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.”  Pick up your pen and make a difference in someone’s life today.


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