Welcome February – Thoughts on Love by John Steinbeck

In the book, Steinbeck: A Life of Letters, there is a collection of letters written by John Steinbeck to family & friends.  Among this correspondence is this beautiful letter written to his eldest son, Thom, in 1958.  Thom had recently confessed to his parents that he had fallen desperately in love with a girl named Susan, while at boarding school!  (ahhh…)  

On this first day of February, I couldn’t help but share John’s beautiful words on love.  They will make you melt… (I highlighted my favorite parts….) 

New York

November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning.  I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone.  Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love.  One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance.  This is the ugly and crippling kind.  The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable.  The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love.  If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.
But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel.  You know better than anyone.  What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful.  Try to live up to it.
If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.
We will be glad to meet Susan.  She will be very welcome.  But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to.  She knows about love, too, and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing.  If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



This month let’s celebrate LOVE (the real kind – the one that is full of goodness!) in whatever form it is in your life, whether it is with a spouse or significant other – or your children or parents, etc.   Let’s use this month as a reminder to rededicate ourselves to “outpouring everything good in you.”

What will you do this month to make sure that the love that flows from you is the kind Steinbeck speaks of?

For me, I’ll continue striving to be the best I can be by taking care of myself, finding joy by serving others, being at peace with life, using loving language, making time for BEING together – often 🙂 & making our home a loving place to be.  Doing these things are the best gifts of love I could ever offer my dear husband (& he offers the same to me).   These things make our life & our marriage as lovely as they are.

And…I am sure writing my husband an old fashioned love letter will be involved….and I’ll probably cry while writing it, like the old days! 🙂  

(Thanks to my friend, Abby, of Hi+Low, for passing this letter along, via this site.)

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  1. Sarah Wilks February 1, 2012 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Every Valentine's Day my husband and I make each other a card. Some years they are simple, just a folded piece of heavy paper with some thoughtful words writ upon it; other years we've gone a bit mad – one year I made a life-size cardboard cutout of my husband and wrote all of the things I loved about him, from his weird toenails to the hairs on his ears. The best thing is the time we take to make each other these cards, during which we get to really think about the other person and why we love them so much, as sometimes the day-to-day can get in the way of such lovely thoughts. x

  2. Danielle February 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    We have a compliment jar for the whole month before Valentines Day. We freely write compliments for all famlu members and throw them in our jar. Then onnValentines Day morning we open up the jar and read them outloud. We all feel so special and loved after this.

    • mara February 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Danielle – – – I LOVE THIS IDEA! Seriously. It's so sweet. And what a great thing to do with a whole family. thx for sharing.

  3. KShonk Designs February 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    Great letter and Danielle thanks for sharing the compliment jar, I think I will be using that for my husband and I:)

  4. Amanda @ A Sweet Life Rocks February 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Wow, I just found your blog by following a link from Jeanne Oliver. So glad I took the time to visit.
    You have a fantastic blog. Thank you for the gift of your wonderful writing.

  5. Lynne B February 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    I too am here via Jeanne Oliver. Your writings touch the core of my heart. I relate to many of your life experiences. You are proof that the human spirit can survive even the darkest times and be better for it. Thank you beautiful soul!

  6. Gabriella February 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    This was beautiful. I would have loved to receive a letter like that when I first fell in love and to know that what he described was in store for me.

  7. Diana Amy February 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing that beautiful letter! This month I will try to be more loving by working on growing my servant heart and findings ways to put people I love (all different kinds of love! romantic, platonic, familial) and their needs before my own.

  8. aubry. February 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    oh dear… this reminds me exactly of the kind of thing my dad would say + write. wisdom, level headed-ness, with a dash of "but you didn't ask me that, did you?" kind of reminds me of f. scott fitzgerald's 'things to worry about', written to his daughter scottie (adorable name, right?) i blogged it the other day, but it's also completely google-able.

    dads! my life would be so much more complicated, sad, sheltered, lonely, boring, and confusing without a dad!

  9. Miss Dessa February 1, 2012 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    I absolutely loved this letter! We all sometimes get lost in the shuffle… and a letter like this reminds me how beautiful love is!

  10. Laurie February 1, 2012 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    wonderful letter! I love the older language, you can imagine they read and spoke slower than we do! I too am trying to be a better person this month. I wrote some goals yesterday to make my home and relationships with my family better and more loving. They are: to not be easily provoked, to be more patient in trials and little day to day things that get on my nerves ( like my baby literally hanging from the chandelier and the shelf above his crib) and to treat everyone in a more charitable way! Wish me luck. Happy February everyone!

  11. Molly February 1, 2012 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    Wait. Where did I recently see this posted? Did someone link to it in one of your comments a month or two ago? Hmmm. Either way, that last part is the one that gets me. "And don't worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away." Such a hard thing to remember when you want something right away.

  12. Messy Jess 2 February 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    I absolutely love this letter. When I saw this a few weeks ago I ordered his book from amazon…I "love" love letters. If you like this you might also like Charlie Shedd Letters to Phillip and Letters to Karen. Great author.

  13. Taylor February 4, 2012 at 12:41 am - Reply

    I need to get this book. I was trying to look for it at the local library. No luck there. I can't even imagine my father writing me a letter like that on love. How amazing would that be? I would love to get a good old fashioned hand written letter on any subject, but this one makes me melt!

  14. Anonymous February 5, 2013 at 2:28 am - Reply

    ..i want to repost this letter to my blog, it really is something:)

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