By virtue of a series of serendipitous experiences, I’ve got love notes on my mind. It all started with a bad mood. Without going into details, suffice it to say I was cranky, annoyed, frustrated and felt like I had no control over my life. So I took it out on my husband, my best friend of 32 years, my partner of 30, and I wrote him an angry anti-love note, complaining virulently about – everything. To make matters worse, I typed it – two pages of pouty bitter poopiness in Times New Roman 12 point.
The letter was still warm from the printer when I stormed into the bedroom to lay it on my husband’s pillow. He passed me coming out of the bedroom, and I told him stiffly, “I’m leaving a note for you.”
His face brightened, and he asked hopefully, “A love note?”
A love note! We used to write each other love notes all the time. My heart sank. I looked down and noticed he was holding some tools. He was fixing something.
“I’ll look at it when I’m done, “he said, smiling, as he headed towards the garage.
I snatched the letter back, tore it to shreds, deleted it from my computer and emptied my recycle bin. I wrote a new note, this one in a curly love font. “I love you!” I wrote. “I appreciate everything you do for us, the hard work you put in at the office, the home repairs and improvements, and the wonderful pleasure of your company. Thank you for everything!”
He beamed when he read the letter, and all the other stuff just fell away. We keep passing that one love note back and forth. I still get frustrated, but all I have to do is say “I love you,” and it comes back to me in spades.
Love notes are curative and restorative. Love notes are recyclable. And love notes are scalable.
A member of my beloved UU church recently turned 85. She’s been very ill, and we weren’t sure of the best way to celebrate her birthday. We decided on a photo album chronicling our church’s journey, and highlighting her place in it and in our hearts. We interspersed the photos with sentiments from her church friends and family – love notes! And when she couldn’t make it to enjoy her cake with us, we made a photo greeting – a visual love note, letting her know how deeply we care for her. When I look at that photo, it feels like a love note to all of us, from all of us.
Last Friday, on Earth Day, I attended TEDxTampaBay 2011 with two of my pretty much grown kids. It was, as TEDx events always are, wonderful! Among the presenters was Peter Kageyama, author of For the Love of Cities (Creative Cities Productions, March 2011), in which he talks about “the mutual love affair between people and their place” and how loving our communities helps make them more livable.
“If cities begin thinking of themselves as engaged in a relationship with their citizens, and if we as citizens begin to consider our emotional connections with our places, we open up new possibilities in community, social and economic development by including the most powerful of motivators—the human heart—in our toolkit of city-making.”
Kageyama referenced the “Marry Durham” project in Durham, NC in March. There, residents held a mass civil union, a parade, and a reception ” to affirm our dedication and devotion to the Bull City!” Vows included “commitments to keeping our streets clean and safe, protecting our natural resources, shopping locally, supporting the arts and local non-profit organizations, cherishing diversity, and electing responsible leaders.” 1600 residents said “I do” to Durham.
Along similar lines, you can write love letters to Chicago at Love Letters to a City , where residents have taken the offer, quite literally, to heart. Writes one poster: “I love your summers with sunny days and cool breezes. I love finding a secluded spot after biking down the lakefront and reading a good book. I love every street festival and how people are constantly enjoying the outdoors at all times on patios and in parks. I love your snowy, cold winters. …And lastly of all I love your people. The people that make the city home, the ones that are friendly no matter what you need, the ones that just want you to love Chicago as much as they do. As I do.”
How wonderful is that, to love your community so much you’ll pen a love letter for all to see, wearing your heart on the sleeves of your citizenship? Love notes possess a marvelous and unexpected magic that brings together the loved and the loving in an intimate and powerful way. Pen a love note instead of a letter of complaint and a relationship is cast in a whole new light.
And a love note doesn’t have to be an actual “I Love You” letter, or even be written. Love notes can take a variety of forms. Looking a cashier in the eye and saying, “Thank you and I really do hope you have a nice day,” is a love note. Waving and smiling at your letter carrier is a love note. Stopping to chat with a neighbor is a love note. Sending an unexpected letter of appreciation to a teacher or a boss or a co-worker is a love note. Calling a friend just to say hi is a love note.
Choosing to overlook minor irritations, at home, at work, at school, on the road, in stores – and taking the time to tell friends and family and those we work and learn and worship and interact with on a daily basis that we appreciate them says we see them as individuals trying to make their way in the world just as we are. Finding that common ground of humanity, at home and in our communities, in our families and among friends and even strangers, can change the dynamic of our interactions and put us on the same team, working towards similar ends, instead of in opposition to one another.
As I was wrapping up these reflections today at a library fifteen miles from home, I came out to find a note on my car. It said “Hello, If you ever think of selling your car, please call me. Thank you. (I’m not a dealer, just looking for a good car.)” The note was signed “Mike” and included a local phone number.
How funny! I thought. I looked at the note again. The oddity of a random request to sell one’s car aside, the human connection of a note tucked in my window bearing the friendly word “Hello…” was somehow compelling. I patted my ten year old Toyota Corolla and congratulated it on its economic attractiveness, and then tossed the note in the car, and headed to a nearby grocery store to grab a few things before turning for home.
When I came out of the grocery store 45 minutes later, there – astoundingly! – was another note on my car windshield. This one said (in completely different handwriting from the first – that occurred to me, too!), “I really love your sign. If only the whole world felt like you. Thank you.”
So what are the chances of making two random stops and receiving two notes from random strangers? Probably pretty remote. But they were love notes, especially the second one. Someone reached out and connected, anonymously, but warmly, in a Tarpon Springs grocery store parking lot, and said, “I appreciate what you’re saying. Thank you.”
What a difference that made in my day, in my life, in my sense of connectedness to the people around me! For even as our world grows flatter, and there are more ways than ever to connect with more people than ever, we risk growing further apart from those closest to us, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our communities.
So I’m going to do an experiment – a Power of Love Notes Challenge – and I hope you’ll join me. I’m keeping a pen and a pad of paper in my car and whenever the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to leave love notes, short and sweet and unsigned – on cars, on store counters, and shop windows; on doorsteps, on bicycles and motorcycles and on restaurant tables and hotel room dressers. I’m going to issue verbal love notes, too, of appreciation and warmth to the people I work with and encounter on my daily travels. I’ll share a follow up in a month or so and hope you will, too, on the Power of Love Notes Challenge page .
Let’s see what some well placed, low tech love can accomplish!