Waiting at the post office that morning, 15 years or so ago, I suddenly felt like I’d come home to Mayberry. Not really a warm and fuzzy Aunt Bea sort of feeling.
“Hi, Pam!” the woman behind the counter greeted me. Someone I really didn’t know, except when I came in to post a letter or glanced across the pew at church. She looked my envelope over, front and back, then remarked on where it was going, chatting amiably. “Hey, I saw your name in the prayer request section of Sunday’s bulletin yesterday,” she leaned in to tell me… soto voce. “When’s the surgery?”
I wondered if I looked as startled as I felt. Sort of stammered out that I hadn’t realized they’d actually put my full name in it. I’d thought it was just a group of elders who prayed for requests during the week when I’d filled mine in. Somewhere sequestered… like in their office…behind closed doors.
How’d she know my full name anyway…except for reading it on my mail…?
“Honey, don’t worry ‘bout that –“ she said, flipping my letter – and heart – into her box. “It’s good to have many pray-ers…”
Yes, it so was. Nothing meant more to me. Yet — this sort of felt like my personal details flapping on the line for all to gawk at. I wouldn’t have been so explicit if I’d known…
I’ll never do that again, I promised myself. Or at least, leave my last name off the prayer card.
I will surround you in prayers… came a whisper, quieting my riotous thoughts truly soto voce, on my drive home. Even from those you don’t really know. Sunshine on my shoulder. Would you have it otherwise?
Laughter skittered away my indignation then, along with images of Barney Fife garnering the latest gossip in the barbershop. Sneaking a call to Thelma Lou to spill it – on the Q.T. Oh well… the more prayers the better.
Home, I turned the key in my apartment mailbox, flipped through bills, tossed mailers to the side. A small card fell out. Ah, real mail. Only – whose handwriting was this? No return address…
A pretty floral card, I opened it expectantly. Dear Pam… and then…
A brief, heart-melting prayer. From a stranger.
Words written as if she knew my concerns. As if she knew me.
So simple…genuine…that tears stung sudden and warm.
A signature I didn’t know. The name of our church beneath it.
Turning a phrase, like a lifesaver, in my mind.
How beautiful are the hands of those who take pen and prayer to paper for another.
Words I could hold and read again. Save in a treasure box with others beribboned on my heart.
Recalling this day yesterday, I remembered another long ago note, wondered where I’d stored it, pulled out a box to search.
I didn’t find the one I was looking for. But others… colorful and fragrant with memories as fresh-dried petals…tumbled out.
Pages upon pages from a young pen pal who wrote me my first – possibly only – fan letter, after reading my debut story in Highlights. Filled with all her little girl-to-young womanhood sharings of faith and dreams and living moments. Captured on ruled paper and in drawings sketched for me.
A sweet thank you from another young friend when she started college a few years ago… sharing how some “day-brightener cards” I’d written for her were lifting her spirits.
Day brightener? I mused momentarily. Oh, yeah. How I’d enjoyed putting together a stack of envelopes for her to open at different times, thinking back on my own days away at school, praying for God’s leading to make the words just what she might need to hear in each moment.
The first time she felt homesick. The day when things seemed blue.
“I have only opened two of them,” I read again now, “the one for my first night in the dorm and the one for when things seem to be ‘going wrong.’ The words you wrote just seemed to fit right into place!”
I could hear the smile in her handwritten words even as I held the card again. Feel the wonder of how God can do that… give us the right words before a moment even comes.
An old birthday card from my mom came next…written before her illness. Undated. Talking of missing me, home news and prayers… bringing her back into the room, like Meg Ryan’s mom twirl-dancing across memory days of time in You’ve Got Mail.
Hmm… You’ve got mail.
The postmistress had had my mail that day. Maybe… in a way… sent by God.
Today, like Meg Ryan, technology is sending me mail. Blog comments that bless, encourage or lift me to prayer…in some way do make community, though in other ways, maybe…steal it. Form bonds halfway across the world with kindred people. Introduce me to heart-catching writers and women of integrity.
And obviously, I’m jumping into blogging and emailing and connecting online. Thrilling to this high-tech, quick and easy way to journal… Enjoying this close-knit style of writing. Like creating my own magazine of sorts.
What’s more fun than discovering a hand-addressed envelope found tucked between unsolicited ads and countless bills?
Can texting replace holding the handwriting of someone I cherish, in my hand? Stamped with love. Last minute PS’s lining the back flap so I have to turn the envelope around to read. Meant and shared just for and with me…unless I wish to pass it on…and not diminishing my value with a host of other addressees…
I love envisioning a perfect card to lift someone and finding it on a store shelf! Taking time to write out my own prayers and I’m thinking of you’s and You mean so much’s.
And knowing the one I send it to will hold it as if I were right there with them. And whenever they’re needing the touch of a friend’s hand, even re-read again, find fresh light and hope in at some distant time when it again falls out of a box and into their lap…
I think of a beautiful book I read several years ago… Nothing but letters. Amazingly written daily, weekly, from a young Red Cross woman of the 1940’s to her family at home. Unraveling her life story with incredible detail, like an intricately-woven novel she could never have told otherwise. Revealing her innermost moments in lands across the world, in England and France war zones, in falling in love.
Much more intimate, tender and true than ever she could have expressed online, had that even been a dream in someone’s mind.
And how, in between the ordinary or mundane topics we may occasionally scribble off, so many of our paper letters and cards are so like those that freeze-framed her story. Bits and pieces of our memoirs. Detailed in the moment. Sent out heart to heart.
Yes…the joy of “you have a comment on your blog” IS fun. You’ve got mail. Love it.
And there are times when I wish all my friends would use email more. For those quickly dashed hellos…catching up… keeping in touch when there is just… too… little… time… to… write.
I’ll admit, I measure out my handwritten letters with greater space between, these days…
Only… whenever I want a good feast…
Give me the personalized handwriting that instantly brings a friend’s laughter close!
Give me the card I can take out and hold without powering up my computer. Take time to think about and savor on my own.
Penmanship that immediately skypes dear ones to mind with their unique swirls and dots and loops — any time of day or night – even across heaven and earth!
And let me always take time to send an occasional one myself. Remembering and cultivating a blessing that can never go out of style…
A touch of Mayberry tea and conversation.
Yes, Lord, yes. How beautiful are the hands of those who take pen and prayer to paper for another.
And now, if you’ll excuse me… I need to go check my mail.
Snail mail, that is. 🙂
© Pam Depoyan
Do you have a favorite old letter you
occasionally take out to re-read?