Have you ever saved something meaningful that was handwritten? We have, and many people probably have some of those writings tucked away in drawers.
In our recent Toastmasters meeting the theme was letters. That got us thinking about the power of the written word and how it can provide a lasting effect, a legacy.
The lasting effect can be positive or negative, and you hold the key to whether it will become lasting and become a legacy. If you have received hurtful or upsetting writings, we encourage you to get rid of them.
We’ve defined four areas of meaningful writings you might want to keep. The first are special books written by you or family members. These books are personal, autobiographical or memoirs, often with a special handwritten message to the reader and signed by the author. They’re cherished by families and often passed down to future generations.
A second area of meaningful writings that can create a legacy are smaller writings. These are often handwritten and sent or delivered in-person, rather than emailed. Being able to see the handwriting and hold the paper contributes to the message.
Some communications in this area include little notes of appreciation from people who matter to you, thank you notes and family recipes that often have helpful hints jotted along the edges.
When I (Lynn) was facing a difficult situation in my life many years ago, a friend gave me a note of encouragement with a scripture in it. I still pull it out when I need a boost and I share the scripture with others to help them. Without realizing it, the scripture in my friend’s note not only helps me, but has gone on to encourage others.
A third type of meaningful writing involves a favorite exercise we used when I worked as a trainer for Dr. Martin Seligman and Ben Dean, PhD, in a program where we helped hundreds of people be more authentically happy and have meaningful lives. Dr. Seligman is author of “Authentic Happiness,” “Flourish” and several other best sellers.
The exercise is called the “Gratitude Letter.” It involves identifying a person that you feel gratitude for and you have not significantly let them know how much they have impacted your life. Seligman suggests doing this with a person from the past, but people also have a lot of success by doing this with someone who is presently in their life.
Once you identify the person, take time to write a Gratitude Letter telling how the person positively impacted your life. Get the letter laminated. Then make a call and arrange to meet in-person. Don’t say the reason, just that you want to get together. Sit down and look the person in the eyes as you read the letter out loud, slowly and with expression. Allow time for the person to take it in and notice the reaction.
After you give the letter to the person, spend some time reminiscing about times you’ve had together.
Letters involving close relationships are a fourth type of meaningful writings that we wanted to highlight. These are letters that are extremely touching for people’s lives. For example, a letter that asks for forgiveness can be a catalyst for renewal in a relationship. Love letters are another cherished type of letters. These are often saved for a lifetime and sometimes passed on to their children.
Another impactful letter that a friend told us about is that her terminally ill husband wrote a letter for his son to read after her husband passed away. These types of meaningful letters are loving and can be comforting.
What about you? What do you want to write to others and what writings have you received that are meaningful?
Ideas for you: Recognize how important your writings can be and how they can create a legacy. Who will you write to and what meaningful messages do you want to share?
If you have some meaningful writings that have been given to you, honor them by putting them in a scrapbook or memory box so you can enjoy them forever. Remember, meaningful writings can create a legacy.