To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. — Phyllis Theroux
Some people claim letter writing is a lost art. Gone are the days of careful and elegant cursive covered correspondence. Now we are much more likely to fire off an e-mail, tweet, text, or post on someone’s Facebook wall. Such immediacy of communication is a two-sided coin. It is good that we are able to contact one another digitally despite the physical distance. I can receive a note from someone in Europe or Asia and respond within the hour, where in the past a letter might take days, weeks, or months–depending on the mode of transport– to reach its intended recipient.
I can remember as a young child how delightful it was to receive a letter from one of my grandmothers or a post card from my father during his business travels. Even today I am thrilled to receive a handwritten letter from a friend or family member. News from another state or a photo or dollar bill was a big deal.
My mother took pains to teach me proper letter writing etiquette. Thank you notes were a must before the gift was enjoyed. My mother started on her handwritten Christmas cards in early November in order to mail them after Thanksgiving, ensuring they would arrive on time despite the Christmas mail glut. She would address each person or family specifically, including some pertinent details about our year and inquiring after them.
Now in her early eighties, my mother still sends us periodic handwritten notes and cards for various holidays. Yet even she has joined the digital age, using her netbook to keep up with friends and family. She “skypes” with us quite often and calls frequently from her cell phone. Despite these modern “conveniences,” she still sits at her writing desk and dashes off letters and cards on a weekly basis because she values the art of letter writing and the personal touch it brings to relationships.
I admit I am not as good as my mother about letter writing. Oh, I have the best intentions. Right now I have a stack of unanswered mail. It’s quite embarrassing when I think about it. I value the friendships and relationships with the people to whom I owe letters; it’s just that time seems to be in such short supply, and sitting down quietly to collect my thoughts and write by hand usually gets shifted to the bottom of my to-do list (meaning it usually doesn’t get done). It is something I need to work on before the USPS closes its doors for lack of business!
Like books, which Emily Dickinson compared to ships taking the reader to far away places, letters send us out into the world by our hearts–a small piece of our very selves carefully signed, sealed, and delivered to those we love. Yes, I’ve become accustomed to quickly typed e-mails and Internet posts, but perhaps it is time to reclaim this intentional freedom. I wonder who I should write first?
How about you? Do you enjoy writing letters? How does receiving a hand-written letter make you feel? Click here to read a collection of letters written by British author Jane Austen and edited by Edward Hugessen Knatchbull-Hugessen.
Lenten 40/40/40 Update
Today I honor my high school English teacher, Mary Coulter. Unfortunately, I cannot write her a personal letter or even an e-mail because she died after battling cancer some years ago. Mrs. Coulter was the teacher who taught me to love words and good literature. She helped me flex my fledgling writer muscles. She was a diminutive woman with glasses, a quick wit, sharp tongue, and high expectations of her students. Her impact on my life and vocational path has been a significant one. Thank you, Mrs. Coulter!
Today I am cleaning out my excess office supplies. How many pencils, notebooks, staples, and post-it pads does one person truly need? Not as many as I have, to be sure!
I am thankful for the family dinner we had tonight. My dear husband made homemade meatballs and spaghetti, and my youngest daughter and I made homemade marinara. Homemade wheat bread and a tasty salad rounded out the menu. My oldest daughter helped do the dishes, and my stepson and his friend provided great dinner entertainment. Pete the Spaniel helped himself to the rest of my salad. Grrrrr. Oh well, at least he had his veggies. It was a good meal and a good time together.
Note: The Friday Five will return after Easter once the 40/40/40 Challenge is complete.