I got a letter in the what we used to just call “mail,” but now call “snailmail.” A real letter. Not a bill. Not a solicitation. Not a reminder from my dentist that it is time for my check-up. Not even a card with a quickly-scrawled note under the signature. A real personal letter.
The letter was from my cousin Joe, who is reading Growing in Love and Wisdom and wanted to raise with me some questions it provoked in him. Joe doesn’t have his own e-mail account or an account on facebook. On those rare occasions when he needs to communicate electronically, he borrows the account of his wife or one of his children. Otherwise he uses a telephone (grudgingly; it is hit or miss whether he will pick up a ringing phone) or writes letters.
I used to write letters all of the time. I’d engage in long written correspondance with the boys from debate teams who went to schools in other states that I dated in high school. (The letters we wrote back and forth were so long that they often were received “postage due.”) I wrote long letters to family and friends both when I was away at school and during the three and a half years I lived in Asia. And I received many long letters in return and loved reading every one.
But I can’t remember the last personal letter I received before Joe’s arrived. I’m sure it was years ago.
It is hard to the describe the delight I experienced when I opened the envelope and started reading the handwritten letter inside. It obviously took time to write, and there were no scratchouts, indicating that Joe thought carefully before writing each sentence. It felt like it mattered to him what he said and how.
I write and receive hundreds of e-mails a day. Occasionally I’ll write and/or receive a long e-mail, but most of them are short and whipped out pretty quickly – have a thought that needs to be conveyed, quickly send a two or three line e-mail. Another idea arises 60 seconds later, just send another one.
Now I’m no Luddite. I have a blog (duh), both a Facebook profile and a Facebook page, a Twitter account, etc, etc and so forth.
But I’m thinking that maybe it would be a great gift both to myself and to friends/family who live at a distance if I occasionally took pen to paper and slowly and carefully shared some thoughts with them. I’m guessing the recipient might take as much delight in receiving my letter as I did in receiving Joe’s.
Over the course of the past few years, as I have become more involved with social media, I have also picked up an odd little habit. I write letters on pieces of paper or cards and mail them. I also send a lot of postcards, just to say hello. Some of the richest treasures of my social media life include getting mail from someone that I have never met. Their handwritten greetings are like “small s” sacraments to me.
And to write to you with things that were brought up due to reading the book, that feels like a particular gift!
Today, though I terribly miss my Mother’s regular letters which I received for the last twenty-five years, I am grateful that she taught me the power of the hand written word. And thankful to receive as much personal snail mail as I do.