Back and Forth, To and Fro, It’s Sharing That Helps Friendship Grow

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There are those who say they love getting letters but they don’t enjoy writing them. These people seem to think writing a letter is a difficult task.  Maybe they just need practice sharing their hearts with others and cultivating greater interest in their fellow men.

I certainly understand the pleasure of receiving letters, especially good letters that have something to say and say it eloquently. If letters are beautiful, if they have a lovely look, they’re even better.  But to me, the best letters of all are those that not only entertain, inform, and share the writer’s true feelings, but also show interest in me.   (We won’t even talk about the “letters” we see, often at holiday time, in which everything is about the writer and no thought is given to us, the letter’s recipients).

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Rebecca West

Now Rebecca West, 20th century author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer, says there is no such thing as conversation.  She says there are only monologues, that is all.  Do you agree with her?  I don’t.  In fact, I feel a little guilty writing to you here and now because it’s all about me and my thoughts. Since I’m a letter writer first and foremost, I’d really like to know what you’re thinking too.  Maybe you’ll leave a comment, or better yet, maybe you’ll write me a letter one of these days.  But even though this particular message from me to you does happen to be more a monologue than a conversation, a letter should always be a conversation. The writer should share his thoughts but then refer to the person to whom he is writing.   He should ask questions, comment on his friend’s ideas and show he cares about his friend. It’s the give and take that makes his missive a letter and not an essay.

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I’ve heard some say they have nothing interesting to say in letters and that’s why they can’t write them.  I suppose this could be true, but if this is truly the case I wonder why these people aren’t getting busy finding places to go, people to see, and new things to do for their own sake. Even if they’re captive at home for whatever reason there are still so many subjects  they could  explore, books they could read and PBS programs they could watch, enjoy, and later discuss in their letters.  We all owe it to ourselves to fill our lives with fun activities and fill our minds with stimulating ideas.  That’s what living richly is all about and sharing all this makes letter writing fun for sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow.

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But maybe some of these people who hesitate to write letters really are quite interesting and have a lot they could be sharing.  Maybe they’re just not giving themselves enough credit, not realizing the positive impact they could have on others if they would share their personal thoughts and stories and show a sincere interest in the thoughts and stories of others.

Some letters are bursting with news, but even if a person has no news to report, that need not stop her from writing a good letter, for though it’s always nice to read what’s happening in the lives of others, the best part of a letter is the sharing of a person’s true feelings.  Sharing our feelings on any number of subjects makes our letters personal and human and its this sharing  that is the magic ingredient of true friendship.  We all have thoughts and plenty of feelings so why not make a point of sharing them?   We should, for when we share good things come back to us – Friends!

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My friend, Charlotte, my “dead friend”
Let me tell you about one of my friends, one of my “dead friends”,  Her name is Charlotte Bronte.  I knew of her, but I never really knew her.  I’d  heard about what she did and where she went, interesting information for sure, but it’s not until I read Charlotte’s letters that I really began to know her, and it’s not until I began to know her that I could connect with her and consider her a friend and kindred spirit.  She now is a source of inspiration to me.

Though Charlotte lived long ago and far away, by discovering her letters, I now feel I know her better than a lot of the people I see in my world every day.  Personal thoughts and feelings shared will make people feel close. Whether we’re happy or sad, inspired or bored, comfortable or under stress, sharing our thoughts and feelings in letters, whatever they happen to be, and being interested in the thoughts and feelings of others, is really what makes letter writing socially and intellectually exciting.

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Though Charlotte was a clever interesting woman and  a successful novelist, she thought her life was very dull and this often put her into  a funk, a real letter writing funk, but she kept writing letters.  Why? I can hear you now saying, “It’s because although she had no joy to share at times, sharing also divided the sorrow.”

Well, this is true, but let Charlotte tell you in her own words exactly why she wrote letters, funk or no funk.  By reading just a bit of one of her letters you’ll begin to feel close to Charlotte as I do and you’ll understand why many say letters mingle souls. Charlotte writes:

Dear ____________________,

I feel it was almost a farce to sit down and write to you now, with nothing to say worth listening to; and, indeed, if it were not for two reasons, I should put off the business at least a fortnight hence.  The first reason is, I want another letter from you, for your letters are interesting, they have something in them; some results of experience and observation; one receives them with pleasure, and reads them with relish; and these letters I cannot expect to get, unless I reply to them.  I wish the correspondence could be managed so as to be all on one side, the second reason is derived from a remark in your last, that you felt lonely something as I was in Brussels, and that consequently you have a peculiar desire to hear from old acquaintance.  I can understand and sympathize with this.  I remember the shortest note was  a treat to me, when I was at the above-named place; therefore I write.  I have also a third reason: it is a haunting terror lest you should imagine I forget you – that my regard cools with absence.  It is not in my nature to forget your nature; though, I dare say, I should spit fire and explode sometimes if we lived together continually; and you, too, would get angry, and then we should get reconciled and jog on as before.  Do you ever get dissatisfied with your own temper when you are long fixed to one place, in one scene, subject to one monotonous species of annoyances?  I do; I am now in that unenviable frame of mind; my humour, I think, is too soon overthrown, too sore, too demonstrative and vehement.  I almost long for some of the uniform serenity you describe in Mrs. ____’s disposition; or, at least, I would fain have her power of self-control and concealment; but I would not take her artificial habits and ideas long with composure.  After all I should prefer being as I am.”

Charlotte Bronte

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We know if someone is alone and lonely, receiving a letter could be a great comfort as it was for Charlotte.  Writing letters to show we care about a person, even if we have nothing particularly interesting  to say, can make a huge difference in someone’s day.  It’s not important to be a brilliant writer, nor do we need to have an exciting life in order to write good letters. It’s just necessary to care about others and be willing to share ourselves with them.

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We don’t have to be alone or lonely to enjoy letters either. In the book “A Woman of Independent Means” Eizabeth Forsythe Hailey  writes, ” Though my own life is filled with activity letters encourage momentary escape into other people’s lives and I return to my own with renewed contentment.”  Whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert, as long as we care about others and are willing to share our life with them letters should be as much fun to write as to receive.

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So if you’re one of those people, (or you know one) who would love to receive letters just start, or keep writing them.  Human expression is precious and  personal touch is more important today than ever for it’s in short supply these days. What the world needs now is love sweet love, and writing personal letters is one great way to spread that love and friendship around our weary world.

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