by Elizabeth H. Cottrell
My story (an excerpt from my book)
A letter from a stranger was the lightning bolt that changed my appreciation for the potential of personal notes forever; from that day on, I saw them as a force for good in the world.
I’ve always written notes, because that’s what we were taught to do when I was growing up in the 1950s. I learned the skill from my mother and both my grandmothers. They all wrote beautiful notes. It was expected. It was good manners.
But the day I received that letter, I suddenly realized it was so much more.
The letter was from a woman devastated by the loss of her son:
“I truly appreciated the encouraging letter you sent my son’s fiancée after my son took his own life. She shared it with me, and it came during one of the most difficult and testing times of my life. I know I have read your note over 25 times; it was a lifeline which kept my spirits up.”
What on earth had I written that could have meant so much to this woman?
Her son’s fiancé was a neighbor of mine and only a casual acquaintance. I only remember, upon hearing the news of this man’s tragic death, that I wanted desperately to reach out to her and let her know she was not alone. To this day, I have no idea what I wrote, but I know it came from my heart and carried a genuine desire to comfort her.
On reading the mother’s anguished missive, I remember experiencing a moment of instant clarity: a note crafted with thoughtfulness and compassion can have impact and create a ripple effect. I’ve been a believer in the power of note writing ever since.
[From HEARTSPOKEN: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire, published 2022 by Koehler Books]
Elizabeth’s Top tips for writing Heartspoken notes:
Make it easy and convenient. Keep pens, stationery, stamps and address book close at hand. If it’s too much trouble, you won’t ever get around to it.
*(Aside from Leah/Tiny: That’s why we make “stash cards” - Check out our “Essential 16” or “Ultimate Stash” for easy-to-reach-for, beautiful cards – the Ultimate Stash has been making it so much easier for me to write a card a day.)
Get in the habit of paying attention to what I call “God nudges”—those moments when someone comes to mind, even when you don’t always know why. Send them a note right away.
Believe in your own note-writing “voice.” It’s fine to get ideas from other people, but with the secret formula in my book, you can find your own voice and write notes with confidence and conviction.
Don’t let these three myths paralyze you and keep you from writing:
I don’t have time. You have to make time for the things you know are important.
I don’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter, because they won’t even remember what you said. They’ll only remember that you cared enough to reach out to them.
It has to be long. An impactful note can be quite short. Stop fretting and just write.
Once you realize what power you can claim for yourself in writing notes, you’ll find it will never again be an obligation, but always a thrill and a privilege.