An author out of Flagstaff, Az wrote a book called, “A Way to Live” and published it himself. “A Way to Live” made its way to bookstores on the West Coast, particularly because the world was searching for a new Vonnegut. “Kurt’s getting old,” liberals thought, “and we desperately need someone to replace him.”
A young man in Seattle picked up the book out of the self-help section. He had just gotten paid and figured $4.99 was a fair price for direction.
The book was about another young man named Chris, who was directed to grab a piece of lined, white notebook paper.
He did so.
Theodore, the young man in Seattle, did this as well.
He was also directed to grab a writing implement.
Chris chose a pencil in the story, and Theodore chose a red pen in his dining room.
Next Chris was directed to write any message on the paper – something he’d say to god if there were a god and if he were to meet him and if he were a he or spoke a language or cared about his creations.
“Ahem,” thought Chris. “Dear god. Hope you got the letter. No, that’s a song.”
Theo: “Ok, god… why is there so much suffering in this world?”
Chris tried again, “I’m sure you’ve got other prayers to answer and all, but I need some direction in my life right now.”
Theo disagreed with the book, “Why would we ask for direction, will god even respond?”
Chris agreed. “I need to write something that will be more of a command.”
“Or maybe less a command and more a suggestion.”
“to make the world better, to help people change their lives.”
“Ok.” they agreed.
Chris wrote, “Life, please be more rational.”
Theodore wrote, “People should share themselves.”
The book ended with a bunch of tax tables and geological surveys, but Theodore didn’t. He folded the paper into thirds and slid it into an envelope, slapped on a stamp and addressed it to:
North Pole, Canada”
Do they have zip codes in Canada? Probably not important in this case.
To his surprise, the postman accepted the envelope and took it to the processing station.
This was in December, so a postwoman understood the letter to be for Santa and threw it into a pile with the other envelopes that had pictures of reindeers and divorce papers. “On Christmas I’ll be at my dad’s house, since it’s a weekend, so you can deliver my presents there, Santa.” The postwoman’s name, however, was Gloria Orenthal Demeules. “god,” she said. “It’s addressed to G.O.D.”
She wondered if it was someone trying to get in touch with her – one of her neighbor’s cute kids who would send her a personal message out of all those faceless envelopes?… or perhaps the strapping bag boy at QFC was sending her a message… she’d told him about her job going through Santa letters from divorced kids. He knew she was G.O.D. Maybe he was telling her about sex, and how he wanted to do terrible things to her. She hoped.
(needless to say, Theodore was that strapping bag boy, but Gloria never found out she had been right.)
She opened the mail.
“‘People should share themselves’…. Why, that has nothing to do with presents.”
Against post office policy, she took the note home with her and put it on her mantle as the only Christmas card in a lonely season. She wondered about it often. She decided to live by the card that had been sent to her by forces unknown. (Despite her staunch opposition to religion, she came to the conclusion that only Santa could have sent this to her, as a reward for raking through the misguided wishes of divorcees’ children and filtering them out). “More than anything else,” Gloria told her sister, Wendy Althea Demeules, “I’ve been sharing my writing with other people. I mean, I don’t know if I was supposed go out and give charity or whore myself-”
“Oh Dear!” from the other end of the line.
“-but neither of those would have the effect Santa would want. ‘Share yourself’… it’s so… vague.”
Gloria went to poetry slams and read her material to an overly enthusiastic and privately judgemental crowd of white adults and black teens. She felt better. She didnt mind the lonliness anymore – or – perhaps – by sharing her poetry she began to be less lonely. Something like that.
Either way the next month Gloria realized other people could experience the same thing. She could help them change themselves.
She grabbed a red pen and sat down.
She wrote, “Lose some weight.”
She slid it in an envelope, slapped on a stamp and took it to work.
“Dave. I need you to do a favor – deliver this to anyone in the 98112 zip code, just randomly, ok?”
“You got it.”
Needless to say, Dave opened the envelope thinking it was a private message.
“‘Lose some weight’? What the fuck?”
Gloria left work that night in a car whose doors had been discreetly keyed. When she got home she prepared a number of other messages to be sent out – 25 in all. Here’s a few of the ones she wrote:
“People should share themselves.”
“Listen to new music.”
“Light candles tonight.”
“Feast on the rich.”
“Forgive your parents.”
and so on.
At work the next day, she handed a couple out to each postman, asking them to deliver to random mailboxes. Each of the envelopes was addressed to ‘god’.
Privately, all over the city, people read these messages, pondered for a few minutes whether they were asses of a joke or part of a chosen few, then quizzed their mail carriers. The postmen didn’t care to talk, and some even spat at the homeowners.
And so it began: dozens of Seattlites reacted the same way Gloria did – they thought of the letter, then followed the advice. Some thought it was a message from aliens, others thought it was from the postmaster general. Some thought the Chinese had given up on cookies while others were sure that astrologers had given up on newspapers (though cookies and newspapers continued to run fortunes, as far as the Seattlites could tell).
One woman, Elizabeth Liason Frye, got the message, “Drink 8 glasses of water a day”
Hugo Ulysses Goldberg received, “Don’t stand for injustice.”
And about half the people decided to send messages back, addressed to ‘god.’
and so on.
After a few months the media caught on and there was an explosion of letters to ‘god’ with everybody receiving at least one a week, then one every couple days.
By the time June rolled around it had become a morning ritual:
Hugo woke up at 7, ate breakfast while writing his daily suggestion, and tossed it in the mailbox on the way to work. Every day. And every day he received a new message in the mail, “Don’t shop at Fred Meyers,” or “Give yourself a breast exam.”
Hugo’s interactions at work became a reflection of these daily pieces of advice – people felt a lot more comfortable speaking their minds, leaving little slips of paper on their coworkers desks.
“I like the world more now,” Hugo would say. “We can be so much more open with each other.”
Theodore, bagging groceries for Gloria at the QFC, wasn’t liking the world so much.
“I don’t like the world as much anymore,” he would say. “Nobody says anything of value anymore.”
Gloria was a perfect example of this. “Theo,”
“Did you know that I started this letter-writing trend?”
Lying bitch, I started it. “No, I didnt’ know that! What was your first message?”
“I said, ‘Lose some weight’, just some good healthy advice.”
Theo was quiet for a couple seconds.
“Ma’am? What if the person it reached was already thin?”
Gloria blinked. “Well, I guess I never thought of that.”
Gloria was 25 pounds overweight and Theo never shared himself with loved ones.