Now Or Never·Point of View

Instead of buying Christmas gifts, I'm writing letters to my friends and family

Every day until Christmas Eve, Elizabeth Cook is delivering letters to let loved ones know how important they are to her.

This year, I'm delivering letters to those most important to me. How will they react?

Elizabeth Cook is writing one letter, every day, from Dec. 1 to Christmas Eve, to let her loved ones know how important they are to her. (Elizabeth Cook)
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By Elizabeth Cook

It comes around this same time each year. The time of year when stores abound with free-flowing finances to purchase trinkets of humour, housewares and holiday cheer. The time of year when side-hustlers and full-time boss babes bust their humps selling their handmade wares at every craft market in the area.

It's this time each year where I struggle to find the dreaded "meaningful gift." I dread it because I feel whatever I buy will be inconsequential to my lovelies. I feel no matter what I find it will never truly embody the spirit of meaningfulness that I'm trying to convey.

I'm not a maker. Not a particularly good crafter, not a knitter, or a cookie artist or a photographer. I'm in awe of these people. They have something tangible to give others. Something made with their hands, from their hearts. So here we are, that time of year when we should be focusing on the spirit of giving and goodwill, and here I am trying to quantify someone's impact on my life with a dollar value. The people I love mean more to me than the $25 dollar cap I've put on their present. Much more.

But how can I show that to them?

Elizabeth (right) has given an Advent letter to her mother (left). (Elizabeth Cook)

Well, I'm a writer. Words are powerful to me. I am much better at expressing myself in written words than those same spoken words. My voice always seems to get in the way. It never sounds quite right and my brain is often moving much faster than my tongue could ever keep up with. However, I can write something that I would never be able to say out loud.

The friends and family that know me also know that writing is a deeply personal and vulnerable thing for me to do. To allow them into my little inner sanctum of thought, a place that is carefully guarded and heavily shrouded is a significant event. Writing will be my way of showing my friends and family that they mean something to me, to my life. They should never have to wonder about that. They matter. So, I decided the best way to express myself is through an act of authenticity. That led me to my bright idea — to send Advent letters.

My plan was to send one letter every day from Dec. 1 to Christmas Eve to a different person each day. I'll let them know in that letter exactly how important they are to me. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but this has also been, and continues to be, an amazingly rewarding experience.

At this point, I've sent quite a few letters and the responses have been entirely heartwarming. The common theme I receive is that their letter came at exactly the right moment. That times are trying and knowing that someone is out there thinking of them and all the great things they have to offer. I had one friend share her letter with a colleague and her response was "this is what Christmas is missing."

Over the years, Elizabeth has had trouble expressing her feelings to those she loves, including her own family. (Elizabeth Cook)

It is such an incredible feeling to realize that I have something to offer my friends and family, something they seem grateful to receive.

I like to be up during what I refer to as the "dead hours" of the morning. I have been religiously waking at 3:30 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. each morning with the sole intent of writing that day's letter. These advent letters have given me a purpose and a time of reflection on my own beliefs about myself. It has made me realize that the fundamental fears I have, the ones that have stopped me from pursuing my dreams, the doubts that linger in the back of my mind, quietly but incessantly whispering that I'm not good enough, those fears no longer contain that weight of burden when exposed to the outside world.

When you take that leap of faith, faith in yourself, you can rest assured that no matter what happens, you'll grow from the experience. It's now or never.

We all have the power to make someone's day, make someone's year, make someone's dreams come true — even it's just the first tiny step along the way to their dreams. We have that power within us. Sometimes it's just a few little words of encouragement and thankfulness in a letter.

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