Every Sunday, on the way to and from church in Belfast, we pass this post box. It’s not very exciting, is it? But this post box has a special place in my heart.
It’s the first thing I saw each morning for 4 years when I opened my bedroom curtains. It’s where I regularly posted letters to my best friend, left behind when my family moved to Belfast in my teens. It’s where I posted my official acceptance of my place at university…planning to come back to Belfast straight after graduating! It’s where the newsy letters and cards of my teenage years were sent on their way*.
It was a staging post when, once, I went to introduce myself to the lady in the house behind it. I’d been waving at her from my room for months if we caught each other’s eye, but after a while she was waving from her living room window alone, her husband no longer in the matching chair. Later, while I was at uni, she used the same postbox to send letters to me.
Now, my old house is in disrepair – being developed into apartments I think. It makes me sad to see it like that, because my memories of living there are coloured by the activity of the household, the guests and lodgers we had, friends and family coming and going…and the view of my post box!
All my life, I’ve loved getting to know others, taking part in people’s lives and sharing mine with them. Being in relationship with others is, perhaps, my vocation! I love spending time with friends, talking, laughing, exchanging stories and lessons learnt, offering or receiving advice… but, when that’s not possible, letters are my second best.
My love of letter writing began when I was young, and was partly fuelled by the delight of getting that long-awaited reply. I think people pour out their hearts in letters in a way they might not do face to face. So my fascination with post boxes is because of what they represent: the conveyance of heartfelt communication to someone that they matter, that they’re on your mind, that they’re worth taking time to write to.
My happy place is 10 minutes of silence with a cuppa and a note from a friend. Knowing they’ve taken the time to put pen to paper, especially in the midst of life’s busyness, is special. I can hear their voice and share their laughter or their tears as I am drawn in by their words. The cards we received when we left England are much cherished. It’s bittersweet, reading what friends wrote as they wished us well.
As you might imagine, I am pretty slow at writing Christmas cards, because I want to say something to everyone!! Huge thanks to Simon, who gamely ‘shares’ this task with me every December, despite knowing he’ll write a much larger percentage of the list because he makes his way through it much faster than I do.
Technology is a great gift for keeping in touch. I love that my friends and I can be in communication in an instant, sharing our news, asking for help, sending photos and videos. We might not be part of each other’s day to day routine, or even be aware of some of the stresses and joys we are experiencing on a given day, but we can let each other know we care.
Your challenge this week is to take 10 minutes to communicate with someone who has been on your mind**. It doesn’t have to be a Sarah-length essay! A text or a short email shows you’ve taken the time to put your thoughts in to words.
Here I am today, 20-something years on, posting greetings around the UK in this postbox. The fact that it has stayed just as I remember it, while the houses and the feel of the street around it are so different, seems remarkable.
It’s almost like nothing’s changed! And yet so much has.
* because, youngsters, we did not have email and mobiles…and certainly not email on our mobiles!!
** I don’t mean us!!