Letters From The Past

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Holding a letter in your hand is like holding a bundle of words ready to leap out the envelope and excite, delight, anger, shock or surprise you. That folded piece of paper could hold so many secrets, so much news, intriguing questions, or answers, for that matter. I think we’ve all agreed that nothing is quite like a letter.

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There have been letters that have shaped history, that have inspired, that have explained, that have conveyed emotion. Letters that will be remembered forever.

In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. was sent to Birmingham City Jail for performing peaceful protests against segregation.

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Whilst in jail he got hold of a newspaper where he read the criticism of his fellow clergymen, Jewish and Christian leaders.  They opposed racism, but they disagreed with him over his action. So he began to write his famous letter, addressed to his critics, A Letter From Birmingham Jail.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail A key quote from the letter.

He wrote so poetically and rhetorically, perhaps one of the most persuasive and influential letters in history. He was trying to show everyone the reality of racism and segregation in America and how action was so desperately needed. That, unless action was taken, there would no change.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Another quote.

Moving on to America some twenty years later. It’s 1982 and there’s massive tension between the USA and the USSR, the Soviet Union.

An American ten-year old girl has been reading the newspaper and she’s worried about what’s going on. She takes the brave move of writing a letter to the newly elected Soviet leader, Yuri Andropov, asking the questions that is on everyone’s minds. Will there be nuclear war?

Here is her bold message:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.


Samantha Smith

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And here is his surprising reply:

Dear Samantha,

I received your letter, which is like many others that have reached me recently from your country and from other countries around the world.

It seems to me—I can tell by your letter—that you are a courageous and honest girl, resembling Becky, the friend of Tom Sawyer in the famous book of your compatriot Mark Twain. This book is well-known and loved in our country by all boys and girls.

You write that you are anxious about whether there will be a nuclear war between our two countries. And you ask are we doing anything so that war will not break out.

Your question is the most important of those that every thinking man can pose. I will reply to you seriously and honestly.

Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.

Soviet people well know what a terrible thing war is. Forty-two years ago, Nazi Germany which strove for supremacy over the whole world, attacked our country, burned and destroyed many thousands of our towns and villages, killed millions of Soviet men, women and children.

In that war, which ended with our victory, we were in alliance with the United States: together we fought for the liberation of many people from the Nazi invaders. I hope that you know about this from your history lessons in school. And today we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth—with those far away and those near by. And certainly with such a great country as the United States of America.

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons—terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never—never—will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on earth.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient answer to your second question: “Why do you want to wage war against the whole world or at least the United States?” We want nothing of the kind. No one in our country—neither workers, peasants, writers nor doctors, neither grown-ups nor children, nor members of the government—want either a big or “little” war.

We want peace—there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all people of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.

I invite you, if your parents will let you, to come to our country, the best time being this summer. You will find out about our country, meet with your contemporaries, visit an international children’s camp—”Artek”—on the sea. And see for yourself: in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among people.

Thank you for your letter. I wish you all the best in your young life.

Y. Andropov

 Samantha did go and she wrote a book about her experience. She discovered that the people of both mighty nations were not as difference as they thought. Both imagined each other as killers and fighters, but really they were all peace-loving, normal people. Samantha helped to show this and when she tragically died in a plane crash, aged only 13, both countries offered their condolences to this amazing young girl. May she rest in peace….
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Finally, we go back a bit to 1939 where World War II has just begun, but already many, many violent, unjust crimes have been committed. One of the world’s most well-known, respected peace activists has recognised them and is writing a letter to the very man who is causing all the grief, pain and hardship.

Dear friend, Friends have been urging me to write to you for the sake of humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that any letter from me would be an impertinence. Something tells me that I must not calculate and that I must make my appeal for whatever it may be worth.

It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state. Must you pay the price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success? Any way I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you.

I remain,
Your sincere friend

Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler. Who could imagine two people so different? Yet one takes the time to write a letter to the other, trying to change the course of history and change many, many lives.
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 But there are other letters. Letters that don’t nessercarily change the course of an entire nation or the world, but just one person’s life. Take Caitlin  Alifirenka and Michael Ganda. Two teenagers living very, very different lives on opposite sides of the earth.
Caitlin was a rich American girl who loved spending money and took everything for granted. Michael was a boy from Zimbabwe who had nothing except his education and he treasured it. They became pen pals through school and gradually began to learn about each others lives, resulting in a friendship that would last forever. Part of that relationship meant that Caitlin and her Mother paid for Michael to leave his home in a slum and come to America to study. This correspondence changed both of their lives for the better, Caitlin becoming more aware of the world and making a friend for life. Michael’s future becoming so much brighter than it was before.
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Campaign Goals

Only yesterday I published a post about an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while: creating a campaign that all bloggers can contribute to. It’s called Tackling Racism With Haikus and you can read about it here https://graciechicksblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/tackling-racism-with-haikus/

Already I’ve had some great responses. Emily from theislandofmeblog.wordpress.com/ has written an amazing post about my campaign and added her own poem. Grace from pensandcastlesonacloud.wordpress.com/ has left me some really encouraging comments and authored an awesome haiku herself. Anyone who is reading this now is also welcome to write a post on their blog or reblog this one.

I thought I’d tell you guys some of the goals and hopes I have for this campaign.

  1. To make a change.
  2. To show that young people have it in them to make a difference, work together and achieve something incredible.
  3. For as many bloggers as possible to get involved!
  4. For people who aren’t bloggers to share this with their friends, family, everyone!

So come on, join in! Together, we can do something about racism!

Tackling Racism With Haikus

A haiku is a Japanese poem consisting of three lines, the first is five syllables, the second is seven and the third is five again, as you can see above. For such a short poem, they have the capacity to be very powerful.

Poetry is a way of using words to express something. Words can change people’s lives and destroy people’s lives, they have so much potential. If only we can use words to beat terrible things that exist in the world, like racism. Words can do more than any amount of fighting, wars and conflict just cause more hate. Words can turn hearts around. We can employ poetry to raise awareness of, and eventually conquer, racism.

Let’s start a campaign called Tackling Racism With Haikus. Come on guys. I think we could do this. We may not be able to wipe racism off of the face of the earth, but I think we can make a change. So everyone who is reading this now, please go and write a haiku in the name of anti-racism. If you have blog, post it on that and ask your followers to write one too. If you like you can reblog this post and raise awareness.

You know, being bloggers, we have a really amazing tool at our disposal. We have A VOICE! So we should use it to do something good and worthwhile. Don’t worry if you’ve never written a poem in your life or if you think you’re not that good. It’s the thought that counts. Let me know in the comments if you’ve written one and I’ll check it out. Also don’t hesitate to ask any questions.

Right, I’ll start.

You don’t understand
how colour doesn’t matter,
it fades in the end……..


Out Of The Dust by Gracie Chick

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I wrote this story poem about the United Arab Emirates or the UAE. It is a progressing country and what caught my attention recently, is that they have introduced a new reading law! Imagine making reading the law! It means that everyone has to read every day.

Libraries are opening everywhere, cafes and coffee shops are handing out reading materials, businesses are giving their employees reading breaks and when a new baby is born they are provided with a bag full of books from the government. They want their country to move on, to understand the importance of reading and education.

I hope this makes you smile, buzz with joy, find out more or just simply feel good. Thank you for reading……..

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Out Of The Dust by Gracie Chick

Full of sun and stone and sand, where nomads roam the deserts and kings rule the land. Where time has gone so slowly and history has been mysterious and strange, in this ancient place of tradition, come hither the rains of change. 

Dark hair tied into jiggling plaits, two soft brown eyes never looking back, a grey pinafore over an immaculate white skirt. Dancing, skipping feet dressed with shiny black shoes, not a speck of dirt. A bag slung over her shoulder, she’s on her way home, gazing up at the mosque’s great dome. 

And on her bag is one word, two syllables that need to be heard. Her name.  “Amaal! Amaal!” The girl’s mother cries, welcoming back her precious prize. Amaal means hopes, Amaal means dreams. The girl is all smiles and sunbeams. 

The UAE is her country, it’s moving forward in literacy. Out of the dust, something amazing arises, knowledge and wisdom are on the horizon. Amaal does not know it, but her name is the motto of her country, or I’m not a poet. 


The Challenge Of Being Yourself

Hey, this is a guest post by Fizzy, author of http://quirkygirlstudio.blogspot.co.uk/

I asked her to write this because, when I found her blog, the first thing I read was her ‘About’ page. I was so inspired by her attitude towards being different, individual and unique. Enjoy…..(and be sure to check her blog out!)

The Challenge of Being Yourself

Hi Guys, this is Fizzy from Quirky Girl Studio. Today I will be writing about being yourself and how sometimes being different feels good and other times it makes you feel like you are lost.

Being yourself sometimes means not fitting in with other people but it’s so important not to change just to make other people happy. Sometimes people who are always trying to fit in are jealous of the people who are just themselves or simply don’t understand. I am a very different person and I am not like most other twelve-year olds. In fact everyone is different in their own way. Everyone likes different things, everyone enjoys different things, everyone has different priorities and a different view on the world.

I started high school this year and I have now finished my first year which was grade seven. Starting high school was not what I expected it would be. I didn’t make many friends and to be honest I was even disliked by some people. I’ve always had a lot of good friends and so I didn’t understand why. It felt pretty sad and I asked myself why people didn’t like me. I think it all comes down to being ‘cool’ and a lot of this is provoked by peer pressure.

Many people listen to that pressure and change to fit in. Through all the sadness and sometimes loneliness of never being liked or fitting in, I decided not to change. I decided not to care about what some twelve-year-old kids thought of me and instead I thought about what the world would think of me.

When I stopped to think, I realised that the people who really mattered thought I was more than ok. It’s important to remember that there is a big world outside of just the kids your own age at the school you go to. I made connections with friends from my sports activities and even online through blogging. Throughout the year people started to get to know me for who I was, and they realised I was someone who would stand up for both myself, and others.

Being ‘cool’ often means changing to be different to who you really are. People who change may find it hard to ever be themselves again. Under all the confidence of the ‘cool’ kids, many of them probably hate the stuff that they are saying and doing and just want to be themselves. I really like Emma Watson’s quote that says “Don’t feel stupid if you don’t like what everyone else pretends to love.” Just because someone seems cool, it doesn’t mean they are any happier than you.

Here are some tips to avoid peer pressure…

  • You can join clubs and groups you are interested in and you may meet people there with the same interests as you.
  • Always stand up for what is right and what is important to you even if it means you won’t be friends with everyone.
  • Try to act like you don’t care about what people think of you, even if on the inside you do.


I hope this helps some of you out there who are finding peer pressure hard to cope with. Just remember that you are you and you can’t be anyone different. Stay strong, believe in what you believe in, and be yourself.




This is a guest blog written by my Mum! Enjoy……..

Is rummaging through your daughters notepad considered snooping or being an attentive parent?

Fortunately Gracie wants me to read it.  I love to read her writings, her snippets of ideas, half started stories, poems or philosophical musings.  She never ceases to amaze me with her creativity, her way with words or her maturity.  She has an amazing understanding of life which often seems beyond her years.

She has allowed me to write a guest blog today because I am having a proud parent moment and I wanted to share it with everyone.

Whilst ‘snooping’ through her notepad recently I found this half started story which almost bought me to tears and left me wanting more……  She wrote it whilst we were in Lynmouth on holiday earlier this year and it is based on a true story of a young boy drowning in the river.


It’s hard to learn to disown something you’ve loved your whole life and that, try as you might, you can’t quite deny that you still love, deep down in your heart.

I feel wicked for loving the river, even after it killed by best friend but the weird thing is, ever since he died, it’s become even more important to me than before.  It’s like being comforted by a murderer.  Yet I truly feel that Dipper wouldn’t mind it, that he forgives the river and is glad that it is there for me in my grief.

He was an older brother to me, we went everywhere together, fishing, swimming, exploring, climbing.  He was tall and boyish and just a little over a year older than me, fourteen when he died.  We grew up with the river, the River Lyn, which runs through Lynmouth in North Devon.  We lived right by it, in twin cottages, his family and mine,  backing onto the water.


I remember the time we climbed right across the ridge of The Valley of Rocks.  With 500ft drops on either side, we reached the top of the highest rocky pinnacle for miles around and just stood there, arms outstretched to the wind, gazing down at the sea on one side and the green valley on the other.  “Cassie”, he’d said, “Look out at that ocean, there are foreign lands beyond that hazy blue.  You wouldn’t believe it would you?  To me the sea just looks never-ending.  But then you can’t always see what’s beyond the horizon can you?”.  He looked right into my eyes and grinned.  He was right, eight months later he died.


I miss him so badly, miss his spirit, miss his brown messy hair, miss his company, miss his strong hand on my shoulder, miss the way he called me his girl-shaped shadow.  Miss the way he listened, miss the way he talked.  Miss the way he was honest and frank and humorous.  Miss how he loved me like a sister.