The Greatest Gift

In our hyper-connected world, the good, old-fashioned handwritten letter has nearly become extinct.
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The Greatest Gift

Which would you say is more valuable, reading a letter of deep affection or being on the receiving end of a marriage proposal. According to neuroscientist, Matthew D. Liberman and his book Social, “We all have a need to belong. Signs that others like, admire, and love us are central to our well-being. Recent neuroimaging has changed that. While lying inside the bore of an MRI scanner, perhaps the most dramatic positive sign that we can get from another person, short of a marriage proposal, is to read something that person has written to express their deep affection for us.”

For You! - The Greatest Gift


(Image: sig hafstrom; cc2)

When asked to describe the greatest gift I have ever received. A past girlfriend, Melissa Peck surprised me with letters from my family and friends. The letters had all the qualities of a great gift. Thoughtful, as she and each participant had to think of me and what I meant to them in their life. Time, she had to plan far in advance to give everyone time to participate, and everyone had to take the time to write a letter. Creative, each letter was personalized with a custom envelope that Melissa created so that each letter was a gift to be opened and cherished. Each letter is a gift, an extremely valuable expression of love from each person who took the time and effort, and the culmination of letters and envelopes was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. From time to time I will open one of the gifts to be reminded of what I mean to the people in my life. After my sister-in-law passed I was pleasantly surprised and comforted to read the gift that she had written.

“In our hyper-connected world, with its text messaging and its Facebooking and its Twittering, the good, old-fashioned handwritten letter has nearly become extinct. Which is a shame because when it comes to sharing one’s true thoughts, sincere sympathies, ardent love, and deepest gratitude, words traveling along the invisible digital superhighway will never suffice. Why?”

“Because sending a letter is the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door. Ink from your pen touches the stationery, your fingers touch the paper, your saliva seals the envelope. Something tangible from your world travels through machines and hands, and deposits itself in another’s mailbox. The recipient handles the paper that you handled and they see your personality and individuality conveyed in your handwriting.”


I attended a personal improvement or intensive self actualization course in which being vulnerable and open or open to vulnerability were the norm. Being vulnerable can be very taxing mentally and physically and the desire to quit can be overwhelming. It was about this moment during the course that each participant received a letter from a friend, family member or a person who previously had experienced the challenges and benefits of the course.  It was a letter of comfort to know that I was not alone in this vulnerable experience or the vulnerable experience of life. It was a letter to say I have been where you are now and I came out the other side a better person for it.

Brene Brown has become synonymous with vulnerability. One of her millions of fans wrote an “Open Letter”, a letter inspired by her book, “Daring Greatly”. An Open Letter is a letter of vulnerability, Mark Travis Rivera describes it as, “Writing this letter was my attempt to dare greatly, to lean into the discomfort, to share publicly.”


Mark created two lists that I found helpful. One, for me shame is: and two, For me coping with shame means. I think it only appropriate that I lean into my discomfort, be vulnerable and publicly share that I am attempting greatness. I often experience not be worthy or capable of the greatness which is Connect52.

For me shame is:

I am not a writer

I can’t create software that will help humanity connect on a different level than ever thought possible

I am not smart enough

I do not have a degree that allows me to be the authority on conflict resolution

Entrepreneurial failure… once again

A lawyer is, practicing law. A doctor is, practicing medicine. I am, therefore I am practicing.


For me coping with shame means:

I am practicing writing, creative writing with a very unique voice

I am practicing asking for help and have others create the software needed to change the world, one relationship at a time

I am practicing that “I am enough”

I am practicing that I am a mediator

I am practicing being my own boss


Imagine a pie or circle that represents all that there is to know. Draw a slice of pie that represents all that you know. If your slice of pie is visible then I recommend taking a moment to observe your surroundings. Do you know how everything around you came into existence? Unless you are a doctor, do you really understand the complexity of your body? When you really start to understand how little we actually know, it then becomes that much more humorous to observe how we travel through life attempting to make everyone around us feel as if we know everything; a complete lack of vulnerability. What happens when we are vulnerable enough to admit that we don’t know how to do something, or how something works, or that we might be lost, or that we might need help? It is in this state of vulnerability that we can experience, greater knowledge, understanding, direction or help.

So in our hyper-connected, overly commercialized world, consider going old school or retro, put pen to paper, lean into the discomfort, be vulnerable with your words, give of your time, thoughtfulness, and creativity and give the gift that your brain registers as equal to a marriage proposal, the gift that can be opened over and over; a letter.

(Featured Image: Sarah; cc2)

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