Yesterday, I was handed a love letter. However, the letter was not meant for me. Rather, it was written by a young teen boy, and I was asked to read it and then give my opinion of it.
Oh, the pressure. And the honor.
First of all, the letter was printed by hand on wide-ruled paper. In pencil. Before I even began to read the words of it, my thoughts were many. Chiefly, they were that this boy is one of the sweetest and most genuine people I know.
The object of his affections was a girl he had met during summer camp, which he had attended for six weeks. In the very first paragraph of his three-page letter, he simply and unabashedly confessed his love for her, exclaiming that this was the first time he had ever felt this way, and so he thought he’d better do something about it.
The rest of the letter pondered in detail the many reasons for which he loved her, reading like a modern-day Robert Burns. Was it her walk that mesmerized him so? Her voice when she sang that enraptured him? Or her laugh, which he confessed made him feel “more at home than anything else in the whole world”?
At the end of the letter, after his starry-eyed musings had run their course, he graciously permitted that it was all right if she didn’t love him back. He ended with, “It’s just that I’m afraid I may only ever feel this way once, and so I’d rather take the chance and say something, than to have the lifelong regret of never having tried.”
Alas, you’ll recall that I was asked for my opinion on whether or not he should send the letter to this girl (by postal mail no less, only adding to the endearing scenario). Was it all just too much? Was he setting himself up for a fall? No one wanted this earnest fellow to get his heart broken, least of all the boy himself.
Every good writer knows the importance of tension. And so — I’m not telling you what I shared with him by way of advice concerning the letter. I will, however, reflect on a few thoughts I had in the process.
Is it truly “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”?
Which is the worse state of affairs: to risk being rejected for who you truly are? or to risk being accepted for who you are not?
Is a pure and heartfelt expression of love ever wrong?
Does someone so young really even know what love is, to go on gushing about it so? And is it all right if he doesn’t truly know what love is, but goes on gushing about it anyway, simply because that is what he is feeling today and all that he knows love to be?
Who among us has really cornered the market on “what love really is” anyway? And if we have, is it then that we finally find ourselves expressing it with abandon, regardless of the consequences?
For all of my questions, I am most interested in knowing the answer to only one: What if she, as young and naive in the ways of love as he, were to find him rather charming in his boyish sincerity?
What if, by some chance, her answer to his big question — is yes?