Tuesday, May 13, 2014

26 Letters of Gratitude

A year and a half ago, I found myself counting down the weeks until Chicago Marathon 2012.

As the race quickly approached, I had an odd, empty feeling I was trying to figure out. Why did I feel so different this time around from other races? I realized I wasn't focused on a purpose for the race. A purpose outside myself.

For years, I have fundraised for Salute, Inc. Salute is an Illinois based non-for-profit founded by an Arlington Heights Naval Reservist and his wife. The company was founded after their family experienced some hardships after being called to duty following 9/11. Salute's goal is to raise funds to support military members and families in need. This is a cause that hits close to home and one that I think about often in training and race day.

With just a few weeks to go to race day, I decided to embark on a new project. One in which I'd thought about at a distance for some time.

Back in 2000, I interned over the summer for an integrated communications company. Our media buyer ran her first marathon a few months after I returned to school. When I talked to her post race, she explained her experience. She mentioned an idea that stuck with me; she wrote down a list of 26 people and thought about one of them each mile of the race.

It was from that idea that I started in on a "26 Letters of Gratitude" project. I made a list of 26 people from all facets of my life; my parents, my brother, my uncles, cousins and friends, a former personal trainer and a coworker. I left the list on my desk and gathered up stationary and stamps from home.

Writing letters is something I've always done. My Dad's Mother wrote a lot of letters. I can picture her handwriting now. To this day, any time I catch a glimpse of it, I hear her British accent. I started writing letters back to her when I was young and continued it to other family members. My parents encouraged me to create cards and art projects to send for holidays instead of purchasing them from the store.

So, I kicked off the 26 Letters Gratitude project. When the mood struck me to write something to one of the people, I'd do it. Some letters were longer than others. Some happened quickly and others took time. I created an insert to put in with each letter explaining the project.

I'd drop a letter off in the mailbox as I left work each night. I remember smiling as I dropped the envelope in the box. I hoped the person receiving the letter enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

Here's a video a friend recently shared with me. I think it ties with today's post and my former Being Grateful post as well:

No comments: