August 09, 2013
Melissa is contributing a series on the intersection of etiquette and the gospel. You can view her first post here.
So there I was, driving in the rain this morning to Staples. I knew that it was coming and that it needed to happen. Emily Post, once again, had struck a chord in my life. I’ve been reading the section of Etiquette on communication. My mother, who grew up in a very proper, Emily-loving environment in northern Alabama, used to always nag me about writing thank you notes to my grandparents. Part of me didn’t understand the need to write someone saying, “Thank you for writing to me.”
As I stood in front of the card section, I picked up a box of blank cards for thank-you’s and thinking-of-you’s. There were 50. And they were 17 dollars. The song, “Had a Bad Day” by Daniel Powter started playing over the intercom as I lamented my low bank account numbers. Was it really worth it to do this?
While a phone call is often acceptable for something like, “Thank you for dropping off that book I left at your house the other day,” there is something to be said for good, old-fashioned note writing. Our words have some serious weight.
As I sat, reading what Emily had to say about this, I came across the sentence, “Remember: Written words have permanency and thoughts carelessly put on paper can exist for hundreds of years.”
In the same way that writing an angry letter (or e-mail) can be a reminder of the bitter taste of those sentiments for a very long time, positive words can be equally permanent. I still have heartfelt letters that I received in high school in a box in my room. And it isn’t so much that I’m a sentimental person (though I can be, to be sure) as much as I deeply appreciate hearing the affirmations of others.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:1 to his brothers and sisters in Christ, with words made heavy with affection and appreciation. He writes, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved” (ESV, Emphasis Added). The Apostle was not one to shy away from expressing his love for others.
Emily reminds us in a similar way that we are to speak to one another. If someone gives a gift, send a card. If a person isn’t home when you stop by, tell them that you are sorry you missed them. If someone is in need of encouragement, offer it. Some of the greatest bonds of friendship can be made or broken in times of great struggle or grief.
In my own life, I can remember exactly who it was that was there when they heard the news that I was hurting. I can remember who gave flowers or sent a note. But the funny thing is, I often hear bad news and choose the opposite. I read e-mails about tragedy in the church or in the Gordon-Conwell community and I never make contact with those I hear about, even if I pray for them.
There is no such thing as truly “a day late and a dollar short” when it comes to honestly expressing how we feel toward one another. Shauna Niequist, in her book Bittersweet, spoke this profound truth into my life a few years ago:
“I know you're busy. I know we forget sometimes. More than anything, I think, we so desperately don't want to say the wrong thing. It's impolite, we've been told, not to bring up nasty topics like loss and sadness. But if we don't bring it up, what are we left with? We talk about the easy things, the happy things, the weather, and then we leave one another totally alone with the diagnosis or the divorce papers… So when there's bad new or scary news or when something falls apart, say something. Send a note. Send a text. Send flowers. And if you don't know what to say, try this: "I heard what happened, and I don't know what to say."
I headed to the cashier’s stand with my 50 opportunities to express something to someone. I stood in line, paid for the cards, and walked out of the store with a mission given to me by Emily and fueled by the heart of Paul. When it comes to telling others that we see them and we love them and we are thankful for them, it is always worth it.
Melissa Zaldivar is an MATH student from California. She loves golf, theology, Jewish holidays, people falling in love, Jonathan Edwards, chocolate chip cookies, her adorable niece and telling stories. When she's not filming and photographing weddings, you can find her reading news articles, watching Parks and Recreation or playing Super Smash Bros.
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