Just one more thing: Giving of Yourself
In a newspaper column I was reading the other day, a reader was commenting on a letter she had seen in the same column a couple of years previously. In the letter, a woman was lamenting that her mother had been in a nursing home in another part of the country, and she really had been negligent in writing and visiting her. Then, after her mother's death, she wrote about how remorseful she was because of her neglect.
The first woman, after reading the letter, determined that her once-a-week visit to her mother in the nursing home just wasn't enough. She determined to visit her mother once a day for at least an hour and send frequent notes. Two years later her mother died. But she had those happy moments of the past two years to remember, and wanted others to benefit from her experience as well.
Maybe you are not able to personally visit someone daily. In our modern age, families and friends are spread around the world. How do you accomplish such closeness in a society such as ours?
I will never forget the example of one woman from Colorado when we were serving the Work in Australia. We had not personally met, but out of her concern for others she decided to write letters of encouragement to us on a monthly basis. We looked forward to those letters as if they were a gift from home. I didn't find out until several years later that she had been writing to dozens of people around the world. It was her way of giving of herself to her brothers and sisters.
Like this woman, you can participate in one of the simplest and most acceptable forms of giving of yourself. It's called postage-stamp giving. All you have to do is take time to write a note to a friend or acquaintance (or even someone you haven't met) expressing interest, friendship, sympathy, congratulations, commendation, good will, thanks or good wishes: seal it up in an envelope, address it; stick a postage stamp on it; and drop it in the nearest mailbox.
Maybe we fail to make greater use of this form of giving, not because we are unaware of its possibilities, but because we permit our selves to be thoughtless. We know how much we appreciate letters from friends, but we do not stop to think how much they would appreciate the same attention from us.
Or could it be that old sin of procrastination? We promise ourselves to write to people (don't forget parents) to tell them of our pleasure in something they have done, or some honor that has come to them, or to express sympathy for a sorrow. But we keep putting it off until some day we say to ourselves: "Well, it's too late now. I'm sorry I didn't do it when I first thought of it." As Christians we should all act immediately on our giving impulses.
An advertisement here in the States goes something like this: "Reach out! Reach out and touch someone." It's a telephone advertisement. A phone call to someone is good, but it can be expensive.
Reminds me of the story of a man who picked up the phone and asked for the telegraph office. His connection was completed and he told the clerk: "I want to send a telegram to Pottawattamie, Ind." "Please spell it," the clerk said. "Listen, lady," the man said, "if I could spell it, I wouldn't send a telegram — I'd write a letter."
You express a part of you in a letter or note you write. It says, "I think enough of you to take the time and trouble to sit down and put into words the interest I have in you."
It doesn't matter whether you have the gift of literary expression. If you say what is in your heart, the words will not matter. And who knows, your letter or note may arrive at a time of crisis. The course of many a person's life has been changed by a letter received from someone who cared.
A few pennies is a small investment to make in giving ourselves to others, or in winning the friendship of strangers who have done something that earns our gratitude or approval.