"Thank you" takes on big meaning in Gratitude Project
AUGUST 10, 2011 11:23 a.m. (0)
The lost art of letter writing and the arcane notion that saying “thank you” counts melded into a seamless whole.
Kerry Ferguson, a theater professor at Wofford, playwright, poet and stage director, was in a funk some months back over her lack of gratitude.
“I have so much to be grateful for… so many people along the way who have helped me in ways large and small. Most of them live right here in Spartanburg.”
She remembered the letters she wrote to friends back home when she was in college and the thrill of receiving their return letters.
Writers, being introspective types, dwell on these kinds of things and from that funk came the idea for “Sincerely, Spartanburg,” a gratitude project that enlisted about 40 people to take the time to write at least one letter to someone who has counted in their life and mail it off by a certain date.
Ferguson’s original idea lead to meetings with friends and neighbors; discussions about the meaning of gratitude and the lost art of letter writing and, in the end, a commitment to sit down and write at least one letter by July 12.
“Not everyone met the deadline,” Ferguson said. “But that’s not the important part. The important thing is that they wrote a gratitude letter to someone. Some wrote more than one.”
It also led to a blog and Web page where people could go to find out more.
Since the start of the project the Web page has grown to include pictures and feedback from participants in the original “Sincerely, Spartanburg” project.
The pictures tell a tale second only to the letters themselves. Letters were hand written on everything from notebook paper to expensive stationary. The sentiments expressed were intensely personal.
The project required time, Ferguson said. Finding the mailing address of a person after years, or decades, is not the easiest thing. Then there was the actual writing. No printers allowed, only pen and paper.
“There is something special about the feel of pen in hand scribbling away on real paper,” Ferguson said.
Special, too, are the sentiments expressed. It is reminiscent in a way of the letters on which so much of America’s history is based. Treasured notes from loved ones lost in faraway wars.
Little treasures left behind for the historian to uncover.
No one knows where “Sincerely, Spartanburg” will lead.
“I’m not sure where we will go next with this,” Ferguson said. “This was such an intimate thing, such an expression of love, that I can’t help but believe there will be more letter writing drives.”
It seems likely Ferguson is correct if the sentiments expressed in this note left on her Web page are any indication.
My grandmother, Miriam Conner, was a wonderful letter writer – I have many of her letters sent to me from childhood on. I’ve tried to follow in her footsteps, writing to my elderly parents. I have a friend who with her sister-in-law has committed to write a letter a day for a whole year – and I’ve been the fortunate recipient of a few of her notes. Thanks for the inspiration to do more… after all, I know how much I appreciate a hand written note.
Fondly, Kathy Tronco”
Ferguson said there’s magic in the sending and receiving of letters, especially those that involve thanking someone for something they’ve done.
“Kind words can change the world,” she said.
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