“One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” -Joseph Stalin (I was at debate practice today and somehow we got to collecting Stalin quotes. I decided I wanted to use this one but couldn't figure out a way to incorporate it into my case, so I give it to you all here instead.)
My mom told me to write a letter to my great grandmother today. I was actually perfectly okay with doing this, but then realized that I had absolutely no idea what to say. This is a woman who I see once a year, who doesn't know me at all, and lives in such a completely different world than I do (she doesn't understand the concept and use of her answering machine, for example), that I really wasn't sure what common ground we had except for our relatives.
I asked my mom for ideas, but she thought I was just procrastinating and got angry and was generally unhelpful. So then I went to talk to my sisters, who were also writing. How do you phrase a letter like this when you literally have no history of communication or anything else to go on? I asked them. Usually something funny or interesting or important happens, and I have a small list of people who will care, and then I tell them about it. I tell my grandma who lives here about schoolwork and grades. I tell my grandma who lives in New York about books and social activism projects and things about different cultures I know she'll appreciate and find interesting. My great grandma? Absolutely no idea.
They told me that it didn't matter what I wrote, because she would just be glad to hear from me and would just show it to "all of her little old lady friends" and be excited. Which was actually kind of my main problem. Because when anything is just as relevant and interesting as anything else, how do you decide what to say?
The whole thing was surprisingly difficult. I wanted to write a sincere and meaningful letter, and couldn't really think of anything sincere or meaningful to say. Everything felt forced and pointless and awful. And that bothered me.
So my sister asked me what big and meaningful things had happened to me since the summer. Nothing, really. Just a lot of little meaningful things that made me incredibly happy but didn't really matter much to anyone who wasn't involved, or maybe our close friends as well.
I didn't want to talk about debate, really, because I have a hard enough time getting my parents to really understand what's so wonderful about it. Same with writing and the books I'm reading.
So what did I end up writing about, in the end? The friends I did those little things with. Because even if my great grandma has never heard of Death Cab for Cutie or John Green or even Facebook and the concept of the AP class, friendship is something sincere and meaningful I knew she could understand.
(/Sappy moment over.)