I've always been a person who appreciates letters. I've been writing them since I was six - first to Karen, my Australian pen pal and good friend for years. We still keep in touch, 36 years later.
Writing letters was a way to keep in touch with the friends who kept disappearing out of my expatriate childhood and relatives who we only saw every two or three years. We knew we could disturb Mum mostly any time - except when she was reading a letter from home!
In my teenage years, I wrote to Mum and Dad from boarding school; envelopes and envelopes full of the tales of the week - who was doing what, all the myriad of teenage feelings and what I felt like crying or laughing about that day. Later, I wrote to friends when I was supposed to be studying for exams. It was the 'Facebook' of the time, I suppose, pouring out your soul onto paper instead of your phone.
Since I've been freelancing as a writer, I've had a couple of requests from people in different parts of the world to help them write a letter. Both times it's been to someone they love and appreciate. There's something about a letter to your loved one that carries more weight and brings more joy than just simply ringing them up and saying, "Hey, I love you, whatever."
If you're looking to write a letter of appreciation or love to a parent, a brother, a child or a friend, try these ideas to get you going.
1. Think of how that person makes you feel. Put actual, specific words to the feeling - 'great' is not good enough. Do they make you feel secure? When you see them do you smile? Now remember back to one or two specific things that happened in which you felt those feelings. Describe them.
"When you held up your umbrella that day in the storm, I felt so safe and comforted by you."
2. What has that person taught you? How have they contributed in tangible and intangible ways to your life? What would you not know, or not do, if they hadn't been around? How have they changed you for the good? Write it down.
"I would never have realised that I could stretch myself so much, without the example of your generosity."
3. What good qualities are specific to your loved one? Are they generous? compassionate? A truth teller? Do they work hard? Or know how to have fun? Write a list. Now remember a specific instance in which they were generous, or compassionate, or hard working and write it down.
"I'll never forget how you tried to make me dance with you, that day on the Opera House concourse steps. You were 70 and I was an embarrassed 14, and you were having so much fun."
4. If you're writing to a child, think back to the hopes and dreams you had for them when they were little. Have those dreams come to pass? Or has your child achieved even better ones? You could write something similar for a friend, partner, husband or wife.
"I hoped you would be kind and thoughtful, and every time you help me out with something, or bring me a flower from the garden, I realise that you are."
Why not take an hour or two and write a letter to someone you love and appreciate today? Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to print button, get an envelope and a stamp and send it off. You won't be sorry.
This was originally posted on Cecily's blog here