Friday, May 13, 2016

The Ministry of Letter Writing: An Open Letter and Response to Steph Curry

I believe letter writing is a true ministry. Ask any senior who attends a Kairos retreat and I suspect they share my conviction. So will Amnesty International, an organization I was introduced to through this ministry. Every Sunday after mass, they set up tables in the parish hall asking the faithful to write letters for the release of political prisoners. I learned about many countries and human rights abuses through their letter writing campaign. Their efforts are another way of demonstrating why I believe in this ministry: it is an act of love. The Open Letter to Steph Curry by Barbara Boxer is a case in point.
I'm a huge fan of the open letter. I've written a few on this blog and I appreciate the spirit behind these types of missives. They are meant for the public to read, reflect upon and more often than not, they initiate dialogue. That's what a letter intends to do: pen to paper, one's choice of words, their handwriting and the stationery itself speaks.

More often than not, the open letter is written to challenge the reader. It seeks to raise questions and bring a concern or idea to the public for consideration. But this is by no means the purpose of Senator Boxer's letter. If ever there was an easy open letter to write, this is it. But I'll give credit where credit it due—actually to both parties. To the senior California senator for crafting it and to the man, a two-time Most Valuable Player who has made so much happen.
Dear Steph, 
I have not written a fan letter to an athlete since I was a young girl and wrote to one of my personal heroes, Jackie Robinson. 
But decades later, after watching your incredible performance Monday night coming off a tough injury, I felt compelled to openly praise your extraordinary accomplishments, your indomitable spirit and the lessons you are teaching millions of young people. 
In my adult life, I have looked at sports as a metaphor for life. The intense focus you must bring to every game, the ability to work respectfully with others as part of a team, and the toughness to overcome adversity are skills that are as just as important off the basketball court as on it. 
Steph, you have shown us all how it is done. You have demonstrated it with your relentless work ethic. You have demonstrated it with your leadership, which is reflected best in the way your teammates talk about you. You have demonstrated it with the passion and sheer joy that you bring to every game. 
It is no surprise to anyone who follows basketball that you earned your second straight MVP award today — the first time in NBA history that a player won with a unanimous vote. You shattered the league record (which you set just last season!) by shooting 402 three-pointers this year. You led an amazing group of players and coaches to a historic achievement — winning 73 games this season. 
Your fans in the Bay Area and around the world are in awe of your athletic skill and your impeccable character. You have made the people of California, and their Senator, very proud. 
These playoffs are not over — and there is much more that you and your team have yet to accomplish. But it is not too soon to say this: congratulations and thank you for your unforgettable performances on and off the court this year! 
Senator Barbara Boxer
We write letters to people we love—thank you St. Valentine, and about people we admire. I have noticed that some of the great people in history are voracious letter writers. From the PBS series by Ken Burns "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," I learned that Teddy Roosevelt wrote a letter a day. Eleanor Roosevelt kept both a daily journal and had a robust relationship with the USPS. My brother once told me that George H. W. Bush sends over 500 Christmas cards, each with a personal note. His book "All My Best" is a collection of his letters. One of the more poignant missives is a letter he wrote to his daughter Robin who died of leukemia two months shy of her fourth birthday. I think they are on to something. Writing takes you out of yourself. You are tasked with thinking of another person, who they are and what you want to share. The greats don't just know this, they do it.
In my own life, I have been blessed with many letters from Tony Sauer, SJ much beloved former President of St. Ignatius College Prep. I believe our school community should publish a book of his letters. They have been written for every possible cause—congratulations, sympathy, health updates, dreams deferred, gratitude, hope and much more. If you've received one, you probably held on to it for some time; for they are much more than note with some chicken scratch on it. No. are the fruit of what I believe is a spiritual discipline.
What's happening with the Golden State Warriors right now is worth sharing beyond the cover of Sports Illustrated or Sports Center's highlight reel. The gifts and talents of Stephen Curry are worthy of public praise, support in the spoken word and the written one. 

What might you write about in an open letter? If I were write one, I might add something about his faith, for he reminds me of Eric Liddell, championship Olympic runner and the subject of the movie "Chariots of Fire." Liddell's brother proclaimed "What we need now is a muscular Christian, someone who will make folks sit up and notice." When you drain 17 points in overtime after hurting your knee, it's hard not to....thanks Steph.

Photo Credits
Steph Smile
Muscular Christian

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