be yourself, catechesis, Catholic, cinema, Conversion, faith, lifting up others, Love, ministry, movie, movie ministry, small moves, talents, The Letter Writer
So I had a quiet day at the office doing simple tasks like licking about 500 envelopes, so I put my Netflix account to use and stumbled upon The Letter Writer. It’s another one that I never heard about but found it to be quite a gem. So teenage singer Maggie has been having trouble at school and at home… her best friend betrays her, but just prior to all the mess, she receives a seemingly personal letter from someone she doesn’t know. It’s not the sort of personal letter that a stalker would send, but an uplifting and inspiring one. A quick run through her family doesn’t find the letter’s author, so the resourceful young lady heads to the post office, where a carrier just happens to have another letter written to someone else but in the same handwriting. So the chase leads to a retirement home – and luck or divine providence leads her to the letter’s author, Sam.
She is led through all the things Sam does. He teachers her very valuable life lessons – and she has a bit of a conversion. I’ll leave the summary there so I don’t spoil it any more than I already have…
So, what do we learn in The Letter Writer? First, do what you do to the best of your ability. Sam (the Letter Writer) writes beautiful, encouraging notes that uplift and inspire. He does it every day and for random strangers. Maggie asks him to teach her, but he says that he doesn’t know if it’s her gift. She has to find her own gift and use it to help others. Maybe it is letter writing, but most likely, it’s not.
Second, little things. Sort of like in Contact, it’s the small moves. Sam writes notes. Not novels, not newspaper articles… notes. Small gestures, that mean the world to the recipients. Sometimes just little things that are done do more than huge overtures.
The next lesson is about using your gifts to help others. Sam could have used his talents to write a novel, or something else, but instead, he chose to bless others with his eloquent words through the letters and notes. Maggie loves to sing, and finds her voice is her talent, and uses it to bring joy to others. She also records books onto CD for a young boy in her building with cancer. What talents do you have? Are you using them at all? Are you working on them? Are you using them to help others? Sometimes its hard to see how you can use your talents… you think they’re not helpful to others – but for most every talent, there’s a need. Maybe you have a great mind for tax law – can you give some time to help someone who cannot afford hiring someone to do their taxes and is not able to do it themselves. Maybe you think you have a silly talent – organize a silly talent show and take it on the road to the local nursing homes or one big show for a favorite charity – or specifically invite those who don’t get to get out much… Offer small classes with your talents. You never know when someone is just looking for a reason to get out of the house. There’s always something that can be done.
Also notice that Sam doesn’t force his talent on Maggie. I’m sure he was honored that she wanted to learn how to write letters as he does, but he recognized that she was being called to something else. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing, isn’t it… to help others recognize their talents? We tend to think people know what they’re good at, but how often do we see people frustrated and feeling inadequate. It’s usually because they really don’t know where they fit, or because they just don’t have enough confidence in what they do. We can help them find their place, it may take some time, but everyone has something.
Another great lesson is have something worth getting up for each day. It appears that Sam has no living family, just his friends in the nursing home. But, he sets his mind to write these letters and notes every day to have something to get up for. I once heard that George Burns even at a very advanced age had planned events as much as ten years down the road. It gave him a reason to keep going. I’ve even heard that many animals live longer if they feel like they have something to do. I think, simply put, we need something to help keep up our will to live. What are your reasons to get up each day?
Another lesson Sam passes to Maggie is the age-old – surround yourself with the sort of people you want to be. If you are a liar and cheat, you will attract those sort of people and you’ll never be able to trust them. But if you surround yourself with people you aspire to be more like (hopefully faith filled people, whatever your faith), you’ll find yourself falling more easily into habits of prayer, joy and love. He also teaches her to support those you love. He and a friend come to Maggie’s concert, even though it’s not their type of music.
I hope, that whatever your reasons for getting up each day, you’ll take part of it to try to help brighten someone else’s day. Even if it’s just holding a door open with a smile. I also challenge you to try to discern (if you haven’t already) how your talent(s) can benefit others and how you can help others identify their talents!