I was truly devastated to hear of John Hughes' death last week. Although we have lost a number of icons from my childhood recently, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson come to mind first, it is John Hughes who spoke to me.
He was a storyteller. More than any other film maker at the time, John Hughes really seemed to understand what I was going through.
Maybe it's because we were both born in February, just 3 days apart..well 20 years and 3 days but I think the point is still valid.
I could find myself in the group of misfits in The Breakfast Club. I actually invested a considerable amount of time and effort getting in trouble with the hopes that my all girl catholic high school had a detention program that would be as much fun.
As a writer on Some Kind of Wonderful he captured perfectly the pain and angst of being in love with your best friend and then suffering through having to watch him fall in love with someone else. The story of my life through middle school and high school. Perhaps if I had just learned to play the drums like Mary Stuart Masterson then I could have won Eric Stoltz's heart at the end too.
Sixteen Candles...Pretty in Pink...Molly Ringwald was living my life, only with better hair, wardrobe, lighting and she always got the guy in the end.
Of course I can't leave off Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Weird Science. These are the movies that really defined my generation at the time, and provide a time capsule look into life in the 80's.
I felt like John Hughes truly understood the challenges, and at times misery, of my life better than anyone else on the planet. But it never occurred to me to write him a letter and thank him. It never occurred to me that he would want to hear from a lost teenager in Louisiana.
Alison Byrne Fields did. She wrote John Hughes a letter in 1985 and thanked him for The Breakfast Club. As she explains in her blog post, Sincerely John Hughes, he wrote her back, which was so much more than she expected. But he sent a form letter, which was so much less than she hoped for. Their pen pal relationship continued for two years and I think it probably benefited him as much as it touched her.
I have an entirely new level of respect for this great man and his capacity to touch people. That a very busy director at the top of his professional game would take time out of his schedule to write to a teenager, what a gift.
While I was reading her post, I realized how much social media unites us all. A number of media outlets, including The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times, just to name a few, picked up on the story of her pen pal relationship and featured it on their websites.
Beyond just the rapid fire ability to share information, the social media network unites us and our life experiences in the same way John Hughes' movies did. We can relate. We share a connection that develops an emotional bond.
How will you use this power today? Who will you touch?