Dr. Lyman Ferrell, once a supervisor of mine, shared a valuable ritual with me many years ago. It has now become my ritual, and I would like to share it with you. He told me that he liked to write a letter each November to someone (often someone from his past) who had changed his life for the better.
I loved the idea, and wrote my first letter to a former friend from high school. She was the most popular girl in our school. I wasn’t. She was sunny, friendly and outgoing. I wasn’t particularly. She was surrounded by a large circle of close friends and I was not part of that circle. But when I got mononucleosis and had to be absent for 2 months, she sent me three coral rosebuds and a note, “Get well soon. I miss you. Love, Kay.”
Three coral rosebuds. I have never forgotten how beautiful they were. Even more beautiful was the feeling that someone I admired had noticed me, valued me, missed me. I was never quite the same after that, and it felt utterly delicious to surprise her 20 years later with a letter telling how much that one act of kindness had affected me.
This year I am writing a letter to my primary care physician. He is young enough to be my son, and I inherited him when my beloved doctor of 20+ years moved to Charlotte. I was prepared not to like him. But Andy has helped me more than any other doctor to make some much-needed improvements in my health. He has done this, frankly, by never making me feel even one bit of shame about certain “bad numbers” like A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol. He only encourages, and it always feels genuine.
I look forward to writing my letter this Thanksgiving. I hope to write many more letters in time. Oddly, the ideas for letters don’t run out. They multiply. It seems that the process of choosing a recipient only primes the pump for more. I think that’s how gratitude is. Once we feel it and share it, it just makes more.
If you were to sit down and write a Thanksgiving letter this year, who would you choose as your recipient, and why?
–Suzanna Luper, M.Div., LPC