Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Letter from a Stranger

I write a weekly column for our local newspaper. It reflects a lot of content from this blog, except I try to remember to remove the cuss words and also  keep in mind that there is a high probability that my former teachers will read every word in print. No pressure. 

I’ve heard from several, quite random, individuals that they subscribe to the paper and enjoy my farm life perspective and the adventures I encounter as a farm wife. I very much appreciate that feedback from the paper’s urban audience, as I write with transparency to tell our story of a family in agriculture. I tend to believe that there are few other public columns that will admit that this week’s farm adventure is a mouse in the silverware drawer. 
Even though we have a barn cat that sleeps on our front step. 
Figure that one out. 

Anyway, I’ve also received really poor feedback about grammatical errors or my inaccurate telling of our lifestyle, but I don’t think that negativity deserves mentioning here. I buried that hatchet in the back yard out by the chicken coop along side our dear Shadow, God rest her skinny, strung out soul.

But the feedback I received Monday night tops them all.

Under a stack of cattle sale catalogs, insurance bills, vet invoices, Elder-Beerman advertisements and a single (gorgeous, sparkly) wedding invitation, rested this letter inside our mailbox.

Though the note was addressed quite vaguely, it was delivered by the rural postal service (two weeks after being time stamped), anyhow. I do love rural America. 

Mrs. Jones, an out-of-town Gazette subscriber, wrote to tell me that she finds my column quite interesting (is that like saying I'm special?) and she reads it each time I'm published. She also noted that she is 91 years old.

You can imagine my excitement here, folks. I had just opened a time machine in my mailbox!

The reason for her correspondence was to tell me a story about her mother drying clothes before the days of electric dryers. My column about the farmhouse register brought back some memories that she felt compelled to share. 

Early in the 3-page letter, she asked if I was Stephen’s daughter?
By the end of the letter, she had apparently talked herself out of her previous guess because she wondered if “Perhaps you’re Phillip’s daughter?” I’m certain this is why she wrote c/o Phillip Bowman on the envelope. 

I think it is important to note that I have not lived with my Dad (and mom), Phillip, in nine years, and four years before that I resided at Purdue. Also, my parents don’t even have an Economy address. In the spirit of small-town America, the letter arrived to our rural homestead, anyway. 

I assume she got my city and state correct because at the end of my column it always reads, “Lindsay Sankey resides outside Economy and raises Angus and Shorthorn cattle with her husband and daughter. She is the writer behind Jean’s Boots Are Made For Talking,”

Mrs. Jones certainly pays attention to details.

This letter, though simple and scattered and maybe a bit shaky, is quite valuable because it came from someone who wanted to pass on encouragement to a stranger. 
For no reason, other than to pass on encouragement to a stranger. 
Because this lady took the time to sit down and write a letter to tell me that what I do makes a positive difference, I'll keep this note forever. 

And I will read it on the bad days. 

And so I challenge you 
(and by putting it in writing, I challenge myself) 
to write a letter to someone who 
has brought positivity into your life. 

Maybe someone at the gym
Maybe someone in the waiting room
Maybe someone you haven't talked to in years
Maybe someone at church
Maybe someone in your family
Maybe someone you do business with
Maybe someone you actually don't really care for
Maybe someone waiting on you behind the counter
Maybe someone at work
Maybe someone you've never actually met
There is no better time than now to let them know. 
Well, maybe yesterday. But now is a good time, too. 
Put it in writing that they are appreciated.

I will keep Mrs. Jones' heartfelt note forever.

And now that I know the 91-year-old is reading weekly, I’ll be TRIPLE checking to ensure that every cuss word is omitted from the weekly Gazette column. 

A detail worth passing on:
In her signature, Mrs. Jones put her maiden name in parenthesis. 
Some gals just have a hard time letting go of their daddy's name. 
I get it, Mrs. Jones, I get it. 

The best, 

Lindsay (Bowman) Sankey


  1. How WONDERFUL is that!! This gave me goose-bumps on so many levels: that this sweet lady took the time to write to you and let you know that you had triggered poignant memories for her. The fact that your postal worker KNEW where to send the letter. And just another reminder of your wonderful, precious, blessed life. I love you, Lindsay and am so proud you're one of 'our girls.'

  2. What a sweet thing to find! I love letters but I fear letterwriting is a thing of the past. My grandmother would send them occasionally when there was something she didn't want to forget to share with me.

  3. Kind of like the person who bought my supper at a meeting I attended on the evening of my dad's funeral.