Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This I Believe

Hello, long lost readers!

It's been months since I've written, but I've been feeling inspired of late and decided to give it a whirl again.

I've been reading a lot of "This I Believe" essays lately. If you don't know about "This I Believe," you should really look into it. The first segment aired in 1951 on NPR, hosted by the brilliant Edward R. Murrow. The task seems simple enough: write just a few hundred words outlining your personal credo; the beliefs that guide your life. Movie stars, politicians, social leaders, housewives, and Average Joes from all over the country have taken this challenge upon themselves and have submitted their personal narratives to NPR in hopes that their stories may be read and shared with the world. Some of them are typical "I believe in god," or "I don't believe in God because..." type stories, but many to most are poignant, thought-provoking and beautiful pieces of prose that awaken readers to a value system that they had perhaps never been exposed. Beliefs range from believing that God is real to believing that people should "Be Cool to the Pizza Dude (Sarah Adams)." They draw upon some value that is universal through experiences that are sometimes very personal.

Each and every essay I've come across has inspired me. So, I've started writing some of my own. And, I've decided to share them here. They don't necessarily follow the rules; are not necessarily in keeping strictly to the theme, but they are thoughts I enjoy committing to paper. Which leads me to my first "This I Believe" type essay: I believe in the written word.

I believe in greeting cards. I believe in letters. I believe in hand-written invitations. I believe in newspaper clippings, magazine clips and real books. Why do I believe in these, you may ask? Because I believe that although a picture may be worth a thousand words, a thousand words committed to paper is worth as much as anything worth remembering.

Although I live, as we all do, in a digital age that values WPM over elegant handwriting, Photoshop over dodge and burn, and word processors over dictionaries, paper and pens, I am an old soul. I collect greeting cards. I practice my cursive handwriting. I write thank you notes, send birthday cards, I miss you letters, and newspaper clippings by mail. I cut stories out of magazines to hang on to for a rainy day, even though I am well aware I could Google it later. But, most importantly, I save every card, letter, idle note and printed e-mail I've ever received.

I have mountains of birthday, graduation, holiday, get well and sympathy cards. I have the first love letter anyone ever wrote me. I have a silly note from my former roommate that she wrote me on a sheet of notebook paper before she went out of the country for a year. I have notes written by every castmate from every opening night performance I've ever been a part of. They are in boxes, tied together with ribbons all over my bedroom.

You may be saying to yourself, "Well, that girl's clearly an insane hoarder," but let me explain. When my grandfather died 10 years ago, my mother (and I, by extension) inherited photos, letters, drawings, rolodexes and all sorts of odds and ends that he had collected over the years. They were all meaningful in their own ways, especially the photos, but I found myself most fascinated with the letters. There were letters he had written as well as letters he had received. As we opened and read them, I began to feel a different kind of connection with him than I had ever felt with him before. I was seeing him through the lens of his own perspective. More than viewing his expression in a photo, I could have his thoughts explained, even with him gone.

I also remember going back into my boxes of cards and finding every card he had ever sent me, reading, "Love, Boompa." Now, I know my Boompa loved me. There are photos of him everywhere in my mother's house, smiling at me with that giant grin that expressed so many wordless emotions. But, when I look at those cards, I can touch the paper that he touched. I can see the precision in his penmanship (or lack thereof). I can acknowledge the time it took, and the intention that had to have been there for him to choose that specific greeting. I feel as if the words on the page are there just for me. Why? Because they are. We rarely take a photo with the intention of it belonging to only one person, but when we commit our thoughts of love, gratitude, joy, pride, sympathy and longing for another person to paper, we are intentionally creating a bond between ourselves and that one other person. We are saying to them, "This is a moment between you and me that you can keep forever; that you can feel in your hands; that you can be certain of the emotion that led to its being given." There is nothing like that. At least, not to me.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I will continue to write opening night messages. I will continue to send birthday cards, Christmas cards, hand-written letters of love and gratitude, sympathy and regret, in the hopes that maybe someday, when I am long gone, someone will pick up something that I wrote and feel comforted by my words, meant only for them. Feel the weight of the card in their hands and maybe smell my perfume lingering. Or even now, when someone needs something to remind them that they are loved, they can open up a letter or a card and know that they are so loved that someone at some point felt the need to take the time to write it down.

Finally, in the spirit of writing it down. I love you. All of you. You are loved. You are loved. You. are. so. loved.