Day 12: Letters of Appreciation

By November 23, 2009Why wait?

In a moment of last night’s journal writing lucidity, I decided to write letters this holiday season to all the people in my life who have made a positive impact, to all my loved ones, and to anyone I may have unresolved issues with, no matter how minor.  If I did only have 6 months left, I would let the people around me know how much they mean to me.  I would hold nothing back, so why wait?

Illustration by Reese Kolar — Click on photo to meet Reese in episode 2 of “6 Months” TV

Although Facebook has worked wonders to help find long lost camp friends, there are cases of people I have no idea how to contact.  I don’t have an address for the Chinese man who used to sell me delicious flat bread on Bao Chu Lu, nor do I have an address for some of the teachers that inspired me, but I will still write them letters.  There are also cases where the people (or dog) I love have passed away, but I can still let them know how they influenced and changed my life.

It doesn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant an act of kindness was, I will still write a letter.  Think of all the people who have touched your life.  All the people who helped you or gave you a hug, all the people who listened or took a chance on you.  I have a strong feeling that I’m going to be living a long time, and I already do make an effort to let the people around me know I care, but I can do better.

There are numerous instances of how someone else’s words impacted my life, but I can think of three in particular.

  1. The first was in the summer before my freshman year of high school.  Like many girls my age, I worried about fitting in and had a difficult first year at my new school.  One girl’s initiative and kindness changed everything.  I was to leave camp early to try out for volleyball, and the night before I left, my camp counselor asked to see me.  She led me to a dark room, and then turned on the lights.  Ashleigh, my closest camp friend, and all the other girls from our floor were there, and posted on all corners of the wall were signs from the girls saying how much they would miss me.  No one had ever done anything like that for me, and Ashleigh had organized it.  I went back to school that year, confident in who I was, and I know that it was that ‘small’ action that tipped the scales and gave me the jump start I needed.
  2. When my best friend, Bennett, and I were beginning our friendship our freshman year of high school, she made me my first mixed tape.  I had made mixed tapes for so many people, but no one had ever taken the time to make one for me.  I remember feeling so special.  I still have it, Indigo Girls songs and all.
  3. My students in Ningyuan (宁远) filled five class books (sort of like a yearbook) full of heartfelt wishes and appreciation for me at the end of my year teaching at Yi Zhong (一中).  Every time I look at their letters, I get teary, knowing their smiles will always be in my heart.

Illustration by Reese Kolar

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I give and will continue to give thanks to all the people in my life and for all the kindness others have bestowed upon me.  I’ve started my list, and I already have over a 100 people to write, so I best get going!

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Charlie says: it, jackie

  • dogkisses says:

    I came to your site after reading your comment about my magic bike. You are the first person to mention it!
    I love that picture of a letter hugging a woman. What an awesome picture! Where did you get that or did you make it?
    I would like to hear about your bike. And, from what I have read, it is an experiment that you only have 6 months correct? I hope it is an experiment and I don’t even know you.
    I adore my bicycle. It has streamers and a bell. It’s magic is when I am riding and feeling the wind like I did when I was a young girl. Plus, the neighbors see me and later tell me they thought it was a child riding until they got close and realized it was me. I am like a child when I’m on it. I do love that feeling.
    I would like to hear more about your bike.
    I also love writing letters and thought of doing the exact same thing for x-mas, but now I fear it is too late. Perhaps I could write to my mom and two aunts, since they are the oldest. I would love to tell them of the many fond memories they gave me as a child, and my childhood was not always easy, so having fond memories has possibly changed the entire course of my life. I don’t know where I’d be without those.
    What a nice site you have here. I’m glad you commented on my site or I would not have found your site.
    I also loved what you wrote about promises!
    Thanks for visiting me and I hope you get those letters written! I will definitely read some of your posts.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi dogkisses!

      Thanks for visiting my site and sharing your thoughts! I bought “Hong Long” (Red Dragon) when I first moved to Hangzhou, China and rode it everywhere. Hangzhou is a beautiful city surrounded by green mountains and the center of the city is a lake. I rode it every single day. It took me to work, to see my friends, everything.

      Since many Chinese people bike daily, there are fantastic bike lanes and even traffic signals for bikers. I used to listen to my iPod and sing along while riding my bike. It was such a liberating feeling! All my friends knew my bike and my students did too. I had the bike for a year and a half, and then one day, I came out from work and it had been stolen 6 weeks before I was going to move back to the States. I was devastated, but I ultimately decided that maybe that person needed the bike more than I did, and I let it go. I will always remember all my adventures on such an incredible bike!

  • dogkisses says:

    Hi Jacqueline, thanks for the story about your bike. I guess I would have concluded the same if mine had been stolen. Stealing “magic,” bikes kind of reminds me of folks stealing plants. I always thought that was the oddest thing, but growing up I heard many stories of plant thieves. Recently, there was an alleged petunia thief at my mother’s house. We later discovered a wind storm had taken the plant out into the cow pasture, but while the “story,” unfolded much drama was included as to who, why, and when the robbery occurred.
    Hope your letter writing is happening and you enjoy! My dearly beloved lab, Free, passed on in 2006. I have a diary where I still write to her sometimes. She wrote to me once too. “I Am Free.” You can check it out on my site. “I AM FREE, an ode to my beloved canine companion.”

  • This is really heart-felt….and it reminds me of a person—my LITTLE ME—-in my childhood days, I recall….how most of my friends were so busy to create and enjoy the friendship between friends…..but really, found very few… who cared enough to notice the man by the streets selling snacks or many others who go so unnoticed.

    Sometimes I wonder about those insignificant to society—how are they?—and it makes me think …Am I atypical in still thinking about them? Wanting to know about them?
    But then, typical or atypical, this is just me—–in the depths of my heart, in the language of silence….these are what my heart goes for…

    Much love

  • Zephyr says:

    I followed the link you left in my comment box and I’m so glad I did. Your post is filled with what we’re all starved for, this gigantic family called humanity. I’m just now discovering the Metta Sutta…a 2,500-year idea whose time has come. Thank you for the wonderful post that reminds me about something I long to remember.

    • Jacqueline says:

      So glad to hear that! I too believe that humanity is a huge family. In Chinese, “大家好 / da jia hao” is used to say “hello everyone,” but it literally translates as “hello big family.” It’s one of my favorite phrases in Chinese. It seems that the ancients understood this truth. I’ll have to look up Metta Sutta, sounds interesting!

  • ashkitty says:

    a good compilation is what I want to say initially, but then I realised that it was a lot more that. Was really touched by your Ningyuan experience. Thanks for sharing it.

  • […] so in those first 6 months of writing the blog, I focused on two priorities: adventures and telling the people I loved how much I appreciated them.  These are still two incredibly important aspects of living for me, but in the second 6 months, I […]

  • […] what happens. They can be big things, little things, cups of coffee, telling someone you love them, writing letters of gratitude, trips you’ve always wanted to take, moves you’ve always wanted to make. It’s your life and […]

  • Jackie,

    I appreciate you!

    This is a great idea and I like it because it literally puts your mind in a place of gratitude as you strive to hit your 100.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts!


  • Great information. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon). I’ve bookmarked it for later!

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