flexing a new muscle

Years ago, I started writing letters to people. I would solicit people through Facebook. Most of the time, it would be people close to me but I often people I hadn't talked to in a long time would ask for a letter. I bought a great fountain pen and luxurious paper and made a habit of writing letters.

Later, I started to write my family members letters on their birthdays. I generally have tried to use those letters to reflect on what I admire about the person who has just made another revolution around the sun. Even though I have deep relationships with my family members, my muscle of direct appreciation was still weak. The letters helped me learn how to flex it in a generous way.

In the last few years, my family has solidified a new tradition. We ask whoever's birthday it is to share one word that summarizes their last year and a piece of advice they would pass along. It's a great way to come together and reflect on how far that person has come and support their next steps at the same time.

When Asha moved to San Francisco, she got to become part of this tradition. The first time, she was understandably a little nervous about it, and my brother came up with an idea to stall for time, boost her confidence, and shower her with love all once: we would go around the table and share a memory we have with the person that year. Now, the sharing of memories is a part of the birthday tradition.

The birthday letters and the birthday tradition are enriching experiences for many reasons. However, I've been dwelling on the value of not just telling someone that you love or care for them, but what you find so worth loving and caring about. During these holidays of community find some time to express that to the important people in your life. If you have to make up a tradition or bring back an old form of communication, do it. I promise, it will reward you over and over.