I spent the fourth of July at my sisters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My sister just visited my dad In Charleston, South Carolina. My father left me a bundle of my Grandfathers World War II papers. My grandfather Robert Rhame was a Signal Core Captain in Italy and North Africa during the war. He was a graduate of the Citadel in Charleston. My Grandfather died in 1981 when I was 11 years old. I never had the privilege to know him as an adult.
As I was digging through his papers, I found a hand written letter addressed to him. The author took some time in writing the letter and went thorough a great deal of trouble to get the letter sent to my grandfather. In 1949 he obtained my grandfathers address from the Adjutant Generals office. Two years later in March of 1951 he wrote my grandfather.
It is amazing to me what a gift written letters are and how I am afraid, they are soon to be a lost art form. Letters have a way of letting the writer express their soul. Their words breath life on the page. When times are tough or truly horrific it is astounding how one kind word of encouragement can change one persons life. A man named Sergeant Dean Mulhollew wrote this to my Grandfather:
"One of the things I wanted to tell you was that your coming down the ranks that day I left meant more to me than if you had pinned a medal on me. I made myself a promise that some day I would write telling you how much I appreciated those words 'You did a good job!' I remember too that you walked into the ranks and shook hands with one man and myself and then walked out again. It was a pleasure working for you."
My grandfather did not say anything awe inspiring, he just said thank you. I suppose it was the genuine emotion behind it that made all the difference in the world. The letter brought tears to my eyes and allowed me to see my grandfather in a way I had never known him. Fifty-Five years later that letter still had life.
As some of you may or may not know, I was in a different kind of war entirely. I worked in the 13th Evacuation Hospital under 7th Core in Saudi Arabia. The comment I remember most during Desert Storm came from a beautiful young man from Texas who was horribly wounded by a landmine. He asked me to write his mother letters and tell her he was fine when he was not. He would rap songs and talk of happy things. He was truly an amazing soul who touched my life forever. He was in so much pain from his injuries but he never complained. One day when I was writing his mother for him, he asked me to tell her that the girl writing the letter was beautiful. To this day, I still well up with tears when I think of what he said to me. Never did he think of himself.
Our words are so incredibly important. One simple thank you letter can influence generations. How often can you change one persons life by one sentence, a soft smile or a genuine hug? We are here on earth to love one another and it is not always easy or possible. So as you go to the grocery store this week, stop at the bank or are stuck in traffic, remember how much one thought or a few words can change a persons life.
So, pick up a pen and paper this week and tell someone who has done something to change your life how important they are to you. Their grandchildren might read it fifty-five years from now and it may change the way they think too.