Today marks the second guest post for the Good Aunt series. I’d like to introduce you to my friend Tracey Finck and her gem of a book called Love Letters to a Child. She’ll encourage you to tap into your inner Jane Austen (an aunt who loved to write books but also wrote loving letters to her nieces and nephews).
To all you good aunts out there, this book makes a great gift for parents and grandparents, but pick up a copy for yourself, too. Finck’s suggestions and wisdom can translate to nieces and nephews and other important children in your life. You may even feel inspired – as I have – to keep a journal for adults who need to hear your “love letters” to them, too.
Just a reminder that the “Thank your good aunt” contest is still going on, and if you win, you could choose to receive Love Letters to a Child as your prize. So get those entries in that describe a wonderful woman in your life who deserves a letter of love from you. And now, here’s Tracey:
My friend Kathy vividly remembers a particular day – way back in junior high – when she was going through a miserable stage of life. It must have shown on her face, because a friendly teacher scribbled a little note and secretly handed it to her during class. The note simply said “Choose to smile.” Kathy glanced up at the teacher and saw sincere encouragement smiling back at her. Kathy did smile, and it actually helped her feel better. That small act of loving attention meant so much to her that Kathy has held on to that note – red pen on yellow paper – all these years.
The pen is mightier than the sword. It can change the world. And it can change the way a child or teenager thinks.
One way to be a good aunt and bless a child you love would be to write a note or a card or a letter. You might even keep a notebook or journal celebrating a special ongoing relationship with a niece or nephew.
Pen and paper are more powerful than email – partly because they are becoming more and more rare and also because your handwriting is uniquely you. A handwritten note is tangible, physical evidence that someone loved me enough to put it on paper, go to the post office, buy a stamp and mail it. Cards or letters can be saved and reread many times over the years – maybe during a lonely or difficult time.
C. S. Lewis never had any biological children, but he certainly was (and continues to be) a good uncle to many via his writing. Simon and Schuster published a collection of his Letters to Children. In the introduction, Lewis is described as a “kind man” who was “never more compassionate than when he wrote to young people. He remembered well the fears, questions, and joys of childhood, and he understood his young correspondents. Lewis met them on ‘common, universally human, ground.’”
Here’s a snippet from a letter to Hugh, written 20 July 1955: “I am thrilled to hear that your street runs North as well as South, because in this country all streets (and even country roads) run in two directions at the same time. They are trained to change the moment you turn around. What is even cleverer of them, they turn their right side into their left side at the same time. I’ve never known it to fail.”
Lewis’s letters are well worth reading—both for their amusement factor and for their rich uplifting insights. But you and I don’t need to be gifted writers like Lewis in order to bless a child with a note or letter.
My book Love Letters to a Child offers many examples and ideas, and there’s even a chapter dedicated to non-writers. The book is written to parents and grandparents, but that just means anyone who loves and feels responsible to nurture a child.
Here are a few prompts to get you started:
- Thank the child for doing something kind or thoughtful or generous.
- Describe a memory of a time the two of you spent together and share how meaningful or fun it was for you.
- Document an answer to prayer.
- Remark on special aptitudes or skills that might be clues to this child’s calling.
- Visualize achievement. Matthew Kelley said, “Helping people chase and fulfill their dreams is one of the primary functions of all relationships.”
- Quote a funny or clever or meaningful line this child said or something positive you heard said about him or her.
- Quote your favorite lines from a book you read together or a movie you saw together – or mention a book or movie you’d love to share with this child.
- Invite the child on an adventure.
“Writing is an act of cherishing,” said Julia Cameron. And it’s an act you can do today. Got a stamp?