Saturday, November 29, 2008


"Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a foreign land." This verse from the Bible is on a plaque in the old Hong Kong Post Office. I am often reminded how true these encouraging words are."

Even with the advent of E-mail, a letter on paper in the mail box is still the most meaningful kind of communication.

A friend from out of state wrote me last week of the "unique sense of commonality I always feel when I read your articles."

He went on to say, "It's not just the sharing of roots -- of Texas, of the depression era, Baptist tutelage, systemic racism -- and on and on. It's that our parallel pilgrimage took us from there to truly alien environs." [He served his Lord in Indonesia and his country in Rome and many places.]

"We were not just giving; we were receiving. We reexamined our roots and came out with some perspectives that, I think, are very hard to come by without comparable uprooting."

Growing up in one culture and going to live in another one is an eye-opening experience. It is a time of seeing our own country and culture with greater understanding. There were the languages to be learned, the customs to be appreciated and new food and friends, made us even more appreciative of America's bounty of freedom and all it has given us.

Letters I received from Pvt. Joe B. Swan during the Korean War gave me an insight to what was going on day-to-day during his life. It was not a dull recounting of the war in general, but what he saw and felt sitting by a bombed out building. His desire to get out of the hell-hole of war. Reminded us to pray more for him and his comrades.

Maybe your war is not such a conflict. But an overwhelming problem or feeling of emptiness. Having someone to talk to about life is good, but writing to a friend is enriching and more lasting. Putting down on paper your fears and needs to a friend helps two ways. It helps you to confide, unburden yourself to someone or just share a thought. It helps the one who reads it. It might just be a few personal words on a Hallmark card, but it is a start.

Writing our feelings and experiences to a trusted someone helps us deal with our life. (Especially if we are only making a living and not a life.)

All we usually get in the mail is bills or unwanted "bargains." But to get a envelope with beautiful stamp and letter inside can make the difference in the rest of the day. To carefully open it and pause for a moment, reading and remembering. You are blessed because your friend thought enough to take the time to put some thoughts on paper, spend the 43 cents for a stamp, and actually mail it to you.

Next Thursday some will go over the river and through the woods to grandma's house. There will be times for memories and sharing of gratitude. Football may get more attention than it deserves. (Nurses and teachers may be laid off, but football goes on forever. Why so many layoffs just before a time set aside for thanksgiving and remembering the Savior's birth?)

Others will eat alone. Their family is far away or broken in some tragic, unfortunate way. Some will break bread with the homeless and less fortunate.

For those of us who have lived abroad know how important letters are at such a time. We also have seen first-hand that while we feast (most of us), the vast majority of the world's peoples will not eat. To them it is just another day of trying to make ends meet: in city slums like Rio; in desert refugee camps in Darfur; in the jungle wars in the Congo; and our too-often forgotten troops and the natives of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a simple reminder and suggestion. As we are thankful for all our blessings, pause this week to remember those with less. Search out a way to help. None should ever feel left out. Then sit down and write a note to a friend you have not seen or heard from in a long time. If you're neighbor or friend has a person in the military, get their address and write them. It's like cold water to a weary soul.

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