Want to leave a legacy? Write a simple note of encouragement

Over the past few weeks, I have slowly been going through five large “memory boxes” of things I accumulated throughout my life.

There are school projects, awards, trinkets I’ve picked up and souvenirs as well as lots of photographs and other things that really should be assembled into scrapbooks. Yet, one thing stood out to me the other day. I have saved almost every single note of encouragement someone has sent me.

I think the practice started in the 1960s after my parents were divorced when I was 8 years old. Once every month or so, I would get a letter from my father. I treasured them as a boy starving for attention.

Soon, I added birthday cards with handwritten messages as well as notes from teachers and other people who had anything positive to say about me or something I had done. Today, at 62 years of age, I have accumulated a vast treasure of encouragement from people. Some of those folks are still involved in my life, but, more often than not, they were in my life for only a short while.

Still their legacy remains.

That begs an important question. Why did I just realize, at age 62, how important notes of encouragement are — so important that people will protect and move them over and over again for 50 years?

The answer is that in a hyper-negative world where we hear a consistent drum beat of voices telling us how bad or irrelevant we are, those delicate morsels of encouragement are retained to be savored again and again and again.

A coaching friend of mine, Melissa Bloom, who just released her first book, “The Path to Joy,” made an observation in a newsletter she sent to her followers. Melissa noted, “We are social animals and we are meant to connect with other people. It is our love of others that allows us tap into the feeling that we are here for so much more than just the routine, nuts-and-bolts of our daily lives.”

Perhaps that’s why so many of us relish personalized notes of encouragement. They signal a valued connection with another person who offered hope, encouragement or had some other type of influence on our lives.

Melissa sometimes gives her clients an assignment to write three notes, ideally handwritten, to friends or family. She calls them ‘connection’ seeds.

There is so much beauty in that assignment.

  • You can re-establish lost connections with people who once made a big difference in your life.
  • You can express a message from your heart that people will cherish for a long time.
  • You can confirm someone’s special skills or traits which may be all they need to identify or pursue their own purpose.
  • You can bring a smile to someone — a bright spot in a dreary day or difficult week.
  • You can leave a legacy.

Think about it, every time someone re-reads that note, he or she will think of you and the impact you had on their life.

Young people today are so lost, hurt and confused that any message of praise or encouragement will stand out like a beacon. In a world of instant messages and emails, a handwritten note will grab their attention. Many older people are tremendously lonely, which can devolve into despair in thinking they no longer matter. A simple note could change that trajectory.

Who knows, your note might provide just enough encouragement to allow someone to see beams of light breaking through the clouds in their life.