Every now and then an envelope arrives like this one from Slough yesterday. I tear it open expectantly, and the first thing I look for is the address at the top and the name at the bottom...
Oh dear! I am disappointed because, to put it as kindly as I can, although the writer has rather trenchant views about a Vicar in Bucks, s/he seems to have forgotten to give a name or address.
I used actually to read letters like this, but these days I don’t. Out the back of the Chaplain’s office lives a good and faithful servant called Erik the Shred. These days I invariably take letters which people have forgotten to put their names or addresses on out to Erik. He shreds them so that they can be turned into compost and Lucy uses that to grow delicious runner beans. We find that is a life-giving use for anonymous letters.
This may seem like a slightly extreme thing to do. After all, I’m a nosy person and would love to know what everyone has to say, surely. The trouble is I can’t not know what I do know, even if it’s wrong, if you get my drift.
I believe I owe my colleagues a basic loyalty where if someone was ashamed to put their name to their letter, that’s the end of the matter.
I remember people saying to me when I was a parish priest “Rector I shouldn’t be telling you this.” The simple answer, which accords with my Scots Presbyterian genes, is “well don’t, then.” Bitterness, slander, gossip, words that say “Raca” arising from thoughts that breach the ninth commandment, grow from such roots. best strangle them at birth.
It may be that the letter I never read was the sort of letter that made the writer feel better to have written, but should, in fact, never be read in its original form. There are letters like that. I hope this is one of them. It may be that they really want to draw to my attention to something with words for which that they can take responsibility, in which case I’d be delighted to hear from them. It’ll get here even quicker with the correct postcode (“9BG” not “9BD”)
Erik is a hungry lad. He has only had two such snacks in the past five years, which, given the amount of mail we get, is high testimony to the basic character and decency of people out there. I wonder if my “straight to the shredder unread” policy is a bit hard-nosed, but suspect it’s the correct thing to do... surely?