Men Learn To Leave Legacies In Writing

The Rev. Harry Wilson, associate pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore., wrote to his wife after taking a course at the church.
The Rev. Harry Wilson, associate pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore., wrote to his wife after taking a course at the church. (By Stephanie Yao -- Religion News Service)
By Nancy Haught
Religion News Service
Saturday, March 4, 2006

Most months, Larry and Jeannie Sanders of McMinnville, Ore., manage a family budget in which there's not likely to be $100 left over. But last June, when Larry burst into the gas station where his wife is a cashier and asked for that amount, Jeannie didn't think twice. The desperation in her husband's face stopped her questions cold.

Larry, 38, a trainer at a gym, had just come from a men's meeting at their church, and he was intent on signing up that night for a men's class on writing letters.

Writing letters? Yes, letters to his wife, his kids, his parents -- and one to leave behind when he dies.

Sanders said he "lost it" during a presentation by Greg Vaughn, a Christian film producer from Richardson, Tex., who had addressed the group of about 60 men at the Baptist church.

"I knew I had to do this," Sanders said. "I was ready for some healing in my life." He decided to register for the class that night, right after he had asked his wife if they could afford it.

In the age of e-mails and instant messages, men have lost the knack for writing letters, Vaughn said. And, no, he doesn't mean Post-It notes stuck to refrigerator doors or greeting cards signed "Dad" or "Your Husband."

He is talking about meaningful letters that wives, children and parents will hang on to long after a man's death, letters that become keepsakes of a loving, enduring relationship.

Vaughn, who came up with the "Letters From Dad" curriculum three years ago, has seen at least 5,000 men pass through his classes in churches from Florida to Alaska.

He recently visited the Pentagon to talk about writing thoughtful letters, spoke to 100 pastors who traveled to Dallas to learn how to teach his course and corresponded online with 50 pastors from England, Australia and New Zealand.

Vaughn begins every visit with his own story. Three years ago, his father died and left his middle-age son something of a legacy: an old shotgun and a battered tackle box.

"I stood in the garage and shook my head," Vaughn remembers. "All I really wanted was a slip of paper with his name on it, a note that said he'd loved me."

He knows, of course, that his dad did love him. A product of the World War II generation, Vaughn's dad loved his family by working hard to put food on the table and didn't see the need to put his feelings into words, Vaughn said.


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