John Steinbeck's letter to his son changed the way I look at love.

Written by Cole Schafer


I wrote this for one of my dearest friends who I will not name here but who will most certainly know that it is written to him upon reading this piece.

Recently, he took a pass at a gal he was quite fond of. He’s old school in a very romantic sense, and instead of texting her or direct messaging her (or whatever these kids do these days) he phoned her.

The pair of them went on a date and she didn’t feel the same for reasons I will not go into detail here. It didn’t derail him but it left him hurting, which left me hurting because, as I said, he’s one of my dearest friends.

This afternoon we met for a cup of coffee and a good, generous brunch and we spoke of the events that occurred in hopes to put them to rest.

I was having trouble finding the right words –– I’m a much better writer than I am a conversationalist –– so, I phoned a dead writer named Steinbeck who told me to tell my dear friend the following…

(His words of wisdom were originally written in the form of a letter to his son, decades prior, confronting some of the same pretty-faced demons my friend was earlier this afternoon.)

* John Steinbeck is typing now *

“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.



It’s that last bit that matters.

“Nothing good gets away.”

That’s so wildly important for each of us to remember as we navigate this life and all its wondrous opportunities –– opportunities that, many times, don’t always play out as we romanticize in our minds.

Recently, in the arena of love, I found myself experiencing two such opportunities. One was with a gal who I loved very deeply for quite sometime and who I was forced to part ways with.

Another, was a barista who swept me out of my street worn Sauconys and who I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to return the favor.

In both such circumstances, I found myself crawling back to Steinbeck’s words…

Nothing good gets away.

It’s a line I would like to remind my friend of today and on future days when opportunities don’t end up being as pretty as they first appear.

Unfortunately, as heart-breaking as it may be, she wasn’t good (at least not for you). If she were, she wouldn’t have gotten away.

Here’s to the next.

By Cole Schafer.