This reading seemed appropriate with Steinbeck as one of my brother’s favorite authors. While Steinbeck is best known for East of Eden and Cannery Row, he was also a prolific letter-writer. This is an exert from a response to his eldest son Thom's 1958 letter, in which the teenage boy confessed to have fallen desperately in love with a girl at boarding school. Steinbeck's words are tender, optimistic, timeless, and sage and speak to what love can be.
November 10, 1958
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.
Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I'm glad you have it…And don't worry about losing. If it is right, it happens -- The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.