A few days ago I tweeted that I had received one of the most significant thank you notes of my life. I wanted to share the story.
This is the note. I received it on a Thursday afternoon and it made my whole week. It’s from someone I’ve never met, and likely never will.
I’ve received other mementos like this – very few – and I decided to buy a special box to keep them in. I already have a “treasure” box that I keep meaningful things in (notes from friends, ticket stubs, hospital bracelets, and one of my most prized possessions: a guitar pic previously owned by Jon Foreman), but I wanted to keep this note and a couple other things separate.
One of those things is a coin from the former Chief of Chaplains of the US Air Force. It’s one of those heavy coins that’s engraved that you can receive from members of the military. I received it because the Air Force chaplain is the father of a friend of mine, and we were in a concert together at church. The man was impressed with my piano playing and gave me the coin as a gift. I had never met this man and I was so touched by his generosity.
The other significant item in my new box is a piece of correspondence. A few years ago I became a little obsessed with the space program and NASA after watching Apollo 13, one of my favorite movies. I read the book Jim Lovell wrote that the movie is based off of. After that, Jim, and especially his wife, Marilyn, became a couple of my heroes. The way Marilyn held it together for her kids and never doubted that Jim would come home really impacted me. A few years after my initial obsession, I found a way to email Jim Lovell through a news story done on the retired astronauts. I emailed him my whole story, how I read his book and how he and Marilyn have inspired me. 10 days later he emailed me back! It was a short note, but in it he thanked me for writing and that they continue to receive notes from people all over the world. So that printed email is now in my meaningful memento box.
Now – to the thank you note I mentioned in the first place. It’s from a retired radio host. No joke. When I began teaching piano lessons in DC almost 6 years ago, I discovered the local classical radio station. I would listen to it most days because the music would calm my anxiety about the traffic. There was one radio host in particular who I loved: John Chester. He had a great radio voice and a fun personality. He would banter with the traffic reporter and always had interesting facts about the music or composers. You knew he was the best too because he had the best time slot – weekday afternoons and evenings.
When I moved to Winchester, I was thrilled to discover I could still get the classical radio station. It may seem odd, but being able to listen to John Chester’s voice was very comforting for me in my new world. Last fall it was announced that John Chester would be retiring at the end of the year and moving to North Carolina with his wife. I had always wanted to write him a letter, and now there was a time crunch to get it done. So I typed up a letter and told him my story and how he had impacted my life and brought comfort. I sent it back in early December.
Thursday, I received a card in my mailbox that clearly looked like a thank you note because of the size. At first, I thought it might have been from a wedding or wedding/baby shower I had attended. Or maybe it was another invitation to a shower or wedding, as those are flying through the air like crazy right now. But I didn’t recognize the address – North Carolina? It wasn’t until I opened the letter and looked at the bottom that I discovered it was from John Chester! My face lit up right away. I couldn’t believe it.
It was a short note but very touching. He basically said that my letter meant a lot to him because of my investment in the station and him, and that at the beginning of his career he wanted to instill in his listeners a sense of comfort and friendship. He remarked about how that’s exactly what I wrote (One sentence I wrote was “every time your voice would come on the radio I would exclaim to myself, ‘John Chester!’ as if a long lost friend had entered the room).
For all three of these mementos I have, it’s not the pride I have for receiving meaningful items from people who have done really amazing things in their life, but the gratitude I have that they responded to me at all. It’s extremely humbling and exciting.
And who doesn’t like to get snail mail?