“More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” ― John Donne
I mourn the slow death of the written letter. It is increasingly rare to receive a handful of cards on one’s birthday or at Christmas. Anniversary, “get well soon,” encouragement, even Valentine cards; they are becoming an endangered species.
One of the classes I teach at the university is Written Communications. In it I teach a session on writing letters; not just business formats but letters of greeting as well. The initial challenge of the class is convincing my young students the need for the information.
Many of the college aged students have never written a card or letter and rarely get one. And yet they immensely enjoy receiving them; a quick class survey shows the value of the written letter above the any form of social network greeting. The reason? There is more effort involved letter writing, therefore it has higher value.
I love getting letters; what a treat to find a letter among my bills.
I’m disciplined to writing letters. I am especially dedicated to creating a Christmas letter. It’s an annual courtesy, but also a yearly history my family enjoys rereading and reminiscing.
Letters are history. A found letter is a piece of the past. The written word has more impact through the ages; it has a certain permanence. With this in mind, coupled with an attitude of gratitude that Thanksgiving spawns, I determined one year to write Thanksgiving letters to my sons. I listed, with specifics, what in them I was thankful for.
It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My sons had left for their school day before I had. I left the two envelopes on the stairs before I left for work; they would see them when they returned.
Their response was unpredicted and humorous. When they entered the house with their mother they saw the letters on the stairs.
“Oh no, he’s left a work list for us!” But their discord turned into delight as they read their father’s praise.
Did they keep them? I don’t know. I hope so; I want them to remember. But even if they didn’t, the true value was in the writing.
(this was originally published in the on-line magazine Just 18 Summers; at just18summers.com)