I was cleaning out the attic a few days ago when I came across a letter I had started to a friend back in 2002. I know, I know. It’s been a long time since I cleaned out the attic. But that’s not the point.
I found other letters, too. Letters between my mom and my great grandparents that she had kept and that she gave to me to read. Letters that my sister wrote to me while I was in college. All those letters got me thinking. How long has it been since I wrote- and mailed- an actual letter to anyone?
There is something thrilling about getting a letter in the mail. Not a note from the dentist reminding you to schedule your next cleaning, not a postcard from a realtor looking for a seller in your neighborhood, but a letter from a friend or a relative. And Christmas cards don’t count because the letters in Christmas cards have been mass-printed to put in fifty other cards.
I mean a letter. Handwritten, not typed.
It can be fun to look in my email inbox or on Facebook and find a message from a long-lost acquaintance. Or a long-lost best friend. But is there anything better than going to the mailbox and finding an envelope with my name handwritten on it and a familiar address in the upper left-hand corner?
What is it about a letter that makes it so special? I think it’s that someone has thought enough of you to get in touch. It’s that they deem you worthy of their precious time, spent bringing you up-to-date with their lives and their thoughts. It’s easy to get online and spend ninety seconds updating someone’s page with your most recent activities. It’s not as easy to sit down for twenty minutes to let someone know that they’re really important to you.
I’m not saying that keeping in touch via the computer is a bad thing. It’s great and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s a blessing to be able to keep in touch with people when our lives are so full and so busy. But are there times when I’m on the computer and my time is being wasted? Sure. Could I be spending that time more constructively? You bet. Am I going to think about that the next time I feel like playing FreeCell? I hope so. Will I write a letter to someone instead of shopping for something I don’t need? I just might.
Thirty years from now when my kids are cleaning out their own attics, I want them to find letters. Lots of letters. I want them to be able to read about the things going on in the world from people who experienced them. I want them to feel the connection between the letter-writer and the recipient. I want them to know that not all important things take place on a screen. If I printed out the messages I get on the computer and put them in a pile and left them in the attic for my kids to find, it just wouldn’t be the same. It would be sterile. I want them to feel the love that comes in a letter.
I can think of about a dozen people who deserve a letter from me right now. I’d better get started.
Until next week,