A Letter Could Change A Life

Letters in a mailbox.

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month. The U.S. Postal Service began the effort in 2001 to “raise awareness of the importance and historical significance of card and letter writing.” Do you have a letter you’ve kept because of the words of wisdom contained in it? Maybe you have words of wisdom to send to someone. I invite you to send someone letter and, perhaps, in 30 years, your letter will still be read, like the letter below.

Mrs. Esther Grosvenor taught the Colfax High School seniors their last English class before they graduated and embarked upon the world to conquer whatever it was they thought lay before them. While the 17- and 18-year-old students in her class spent more time counting the days until graduation than they did counting their verbs and nouns, Mrs. G. (as we affectionately called her), nevertheless, persevered in her job in assigning the task of diagramming sentences and drilling the rows of pimple-faced boys and girls on the difference in meaning between affect and effect, lie and lay, and simile and metaphor.

If she was inpatient with the impertinence of us she didn’t show it. After 40 plus years in the classroom, Mrs. Grosvenor had developed enough equanimity about her job that not much fazed her in her interactions with children disguised as adults.

Bright City Lights

When I finished her class and Colfax High School in 1984, I also left the town for the bright city lights of Des Moines. Six weeks after I walked across the gymnasium stage, my parents had sold the-old-Miss-Byal house where we lived and packed up the green Chevy pick-up and moved us off to the town where both of them worked for the city government.

After I moved to Des Moines, I wrote to Mrs. Grosvenor. I don’t remember the details of my letter to her; likely, I thanked her for attending my graduation reception and made mention of my move. Based on her response to me, I must have had questions about the role of women in the work force.  It’s been 30 plus years since I graduated from high school, and I have kept her letter tucked away in a small cedar box.

30 Years Worth of Relevance

Every so often, I open this box and take out Mrs. Grosvenor’s letter to read. Her words seem even more relevant to me now then when she originally wrote them. Her perspective on women in the workforce was formed from her own life experiences and long before feminism became a topic of conversation and debate in our popular culture.

As I maintain the juggle of my roles as wife, mother, employee and world citizen, her words are a gentle reminder of finding the right balance. Tending to so many responsibilities is rigorous. But just like they were 30 years ago, Mrs. G.’s words continue to encourage me and, I hope, you. Keep hanging in there and like Mrs. G. vowed for herself, “maybe (you’ll) finish that novel (you) started some years back.”