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Has the handwritten letter gone the way of the horse and buggy? Don’t tell TV producer Martha Williamson that.
Like most people these days, I can’t imagine life without e-mail. Texting is even more convenient, especially since I have two teen daughters. But there’s something about a letter, something more personal, more meaningful.
It says that someone took time to put on paper what they felt. Sometimes people reveal something they might not have told you any other way, something that can touch your life forever.
Let me tell you about three letters that made a difference to me.
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Freshman year of college I was struggling. I’d ventured far from home, from Colorado to Williams College in western Massachusetts.
Williams was and still is one of the most academically challenging colleges in the country and looks like a movie set: ivy-covered walls, Gothic columns, expansive green lawns in a charming village.
It seemed as though half my classmates had gone to boarding school. They’d already lived away from home and arrived on campus with an air of sophistication I couldn’t match. (All I knew of preppies was from the movie Love Story.)
I’d been named “Outstanding Senior” at Denver South High and was the editor of the school yearbook. I’d led my church youth group and won a prestigious scholarship. None of that seemed to count for much with my accomplished classmates.
But I loved to sing, and I was cast as the lead in the Freshman Revue. Finally something at college I could excel at! The rehearsals and performances didn’t allow much time for studying, and then there were friends to make and parties to go to.
Despite my straight A average in high school, I didn’t have good study habits. My first college report card proved it. I sat on my dorm-room bed, staring at C’s and D’s.
I knew my parents had gotten a copy of my grades. My mother was an advocate for women’s education and the treasurer of an international organization of university women. My dad ran his own business and was a pillar of the community. They’d been so proud I was following in their footsteps.
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I could have called home, but long-distance calls were expensive then. Besides, telling my parents, “I couldn’t cut it in college. I’m so sorry I’ve disappointed you” hardly seemed attractive.
Mail was delivered to the student union, where every week I’d find waiting for me a thick packet of Denver news clippings from Mom with a “Daddy says hi” tacked on. I put off checking my mailbox but I couldn’t avoid the student union forever.
Finally I walked in and Mrs. Marlowe, who sorted our mail, announced, “You’ve got something.” I peeked inside my mailbox. No clippings this time. A letter. Two letters.
I grabbed them and sat on a bench outside to read. My dad’s letter was typed on his business stationery, onionskin paper that crinkled in my shaking hands.
The keys on his old Smith Corona would strike the paper so hard that some letters were raised like Braille and others made holes. I could see through the f ’s and the o’s. I could hear his voice, quiet, firm, kind.
“I understand you are struggling. We have all been there,” he wrote. Dad, struggle? He always seemed so confident! “We all fail sometimes. We disappoint ourselves. And our family. But those who deserve to be at the top, when they fail, get right back up to the top again. And I know you will.”
Then he quoted a Scripture: “From those to whom much is given, much is required.”
The TV show, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, created by Martha Williamson, the Executive Producer of Touched By An Angel, airs Sundays at 8p/7c on Hallmark Channel.