After being gone for eight days over spring break, I came home to a giant heap of mail. I started to sort it into piles – bills, junk, coupons, personal, etc. As you can imagine, the bill pile was the largest, and the personal pile was the smallest. With the immediacy of text, email, Facebook and Instagram, it is not every day that one receives a real live letter – one that actually takes a few days to appear in a physical box at the end of the driveway. I saw that it was from a dear friend with whom I’ve done Bible study for a number of years.
Her letter was a personal one of affirmation and thanks. She wrote words that lifted my spirits during a particularly down week and gave me hope that what I was doing was not for naught. I cannot describe how much I appreciated her putting pen to paper and sharing her kind and uplifting thoughts with me. It was a unique gift of her time and her heart, and it is one I will not soon forget. And because it is an actual letter on an actual piece of paper, I can keep it, and pull it out when I need a positive thought from a special person. In her explanation of how she is on a journey of writing 365 letters this year, she said, “It doesn’t have to go viral to be valuable. Kindness and creativity matter – even one day/letter at a time.”
During a college visit over spring break, my daughter and I went to Mass where the priest was talking to the students about “fasting” from social media. I am sure for young people (and many older people), this would truly be a sacrifice. In another example of the power of the positive (in this case, virtual) pen, my friend’s college freshman considered giving up social media for Lent. Instead, she decided to turn it on its head. She made a list of 40 people she wanted to affirm. She put them into random order, and has logged onto Instagram only to post an affirming message and photo to thank and encourage that person who has touched her life.
With the discourse today that we see on television, read on social media, and hear on talk radio, kindness does not always abound. This is what our children are reading, hearing and seeing as examples of how to speak with and to one another. Did Jesus speak this way? Is this the example we have been given about how to speak with one another? Let’s turn this on its head given what the Word says:
“The Lord has given me a learned tongue, so that I would know how to uphold with a word, one who has weakened. He rises in the morning, he rises to my ear in the morning, so that I may heed him like a teacher.” – Isaiah 50:4
“Careful words are a honeycomb: sweet to the soul and healthful to the bones.” – Proverbs 16:24
“Grief in the heart of a man humbles him. And with a good word he shall be made glad. – Proverbs 12:25
“When anyone speaks, it should be like words of God. When anyone ministers, it should be from the virtue that God provides, so that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 4:11
I know that personally, my Lenten promise is to try and speak more positive words to both myself, my family, and to others, and not swim in the cesspool of negativity that plagues our communications to one another. Yes, I fully recognize that it is something that I should be doing anyway. But thankfully, I have fantastic role models in my life that show me the way to how Jesus would have spoken to his friends, family and followers. The power of the written and spoken word is so powerful, and can lead to a more positive Lent for us all.