Westmont Magazine The Power of a Handwritten Note
Julie Rosemond Merrick ’91 learned a lifelong habit from her mother: writing thank-you notes. “She taught me to sit down and write to my grandparents in Iowa,” Julie says. “I have always sent handwritten notes; it’s just a part of my life.”
In a 2017 TEDx Talk, “The Gift That Can Last Forever,” Julie says that sending and receiving handwritten notes can change lives. “This act of solitude connects you to someone else,” she says. “You’re decompressing, slowing down and tapping into your inner life. You are taking time out of your day to pay attention to another person. You are creating a surprise and offering something unexpected, especially when there’s no birthday or other occasion involved.”
Julie comes from a family of educators and athletes. She met Russell Smelley, Westmont’s track coach, at a Santa Barbara track meet and realized the college would be a great fit for her. She competed in the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles, the triple jump, and relays and remains one of the top 10 hurdlers in Westmont history. She majored in biology and spent 11 years teaching middle school science classes. “Then I woke up one day and realized I didn’t want to keep doing this,” she says.
She coordinated the spa at the Ojai Valley Inn for 11 years and later served as the member- ship director at the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. She took flying lessons and got her private pilot’s license. “It’s the science girl in me,” she says. “I was curious about flying and wanted to learn about weather, maps and aerodynamics.” She volunteers for Hospice.
“I’m lucky to have experienced these differ- ent things,” she says. “My husband worked as a fireman for 31 years before retiring and loved it. But Thomas Merton said that people can spend their whole life climbing the ladder of success only to find when they reach the top that they’re on the wrong wall. I enjoyed teaching but wanted to explore other walls too. I had faith in God and knew I would be fine whatever I did.”
For the past eight years, Julie has coached athletes “from the shoulders up” to help them improve their performance. “I saw that a lack of confidence and goal-setting can affect high school and college athletes,” she says. She helps them create a mental game plan, improve their mental preparation, and set appropriate goals. “Athletes need to rebound when they lose and learn to come back from adversity,” she says. Her clients include a high school football team as well as individual athletes such as golfers, swimmers, basketball players and gymnasts. Russell Smelley has invited her to speak to his teams.
After her TEDx Talk, Julie heard from people throughout the world. “Jesus tells us do unto others, and I like receiving handwritten notes,” she says. “I hope to inspire people to reach out, possibly to an old boss or friend they haven’t talked to in a while. Let God do the work and bring people to mind. In this age of mindful- ness, letter writing is being present. I have to think about you and what I’m going to say. I’m not writing to get something back; it’s a gift freely given.”
Julie will soon launch Letterbundles.com, where people can ask for handwritten notes for those experiencing challenges. She will recruit volunteers, send them emails about the requests, collect letters sent to her post-office box, and mail a bundle of notes to the individual in need. “Receiving a bundle could change someone’s life,” she says. “And writing to a person you don’t know could change yours.”