Over the past week, I sat down and wrote and mailed two letters to a couple of men from our congregation who recently moved away from our area. They were both long-time members of our church, amazing supporters and unforgettable friends. Both had reached the point where they could no longer live alone. They moved to a place where they would receive good care for the remainder of their lives.
I hope you caught my nuance in the first sentence of this post. I didn’t call, text or email. I wrote a letter with a fountain pen and stationery, put it in an envelope, addressed it, put a stamp on the envelope and mailed it. I felt that these relationships were worth a unique form of communication. At least in this digital age.
As I wrote each letter, I wondered, “What is it that makes a letter so different, so meaningful than other media?” A few weeks ago I got a little thank you note from a member I visited, thanking me for the visit. I felt a rush of adrenaline. It was so cool. The note was three simple sentences, yet it touched me.
It got me thinking, “What makes a letter so appealing? Why does it make such an impact?” Here are a few thoughts:
It is sensory. You open an envelope. You hold a piece of paper, perhaps unfolding it, feeling its texture. Our sense of touch amplifies what we see. It’s more than just words or thoughts, but a feeling.
It lingers. We can go back and read it again and again. Yes, you can reread emails and texts, but you may not. They soon get lost in a sea of other communication. But a letter in an opened envelope invites you to look at it again and again. I noticed that when my dad opened a birthday card from my cousin last spring. She had written on the inside and the back. He read it through three times. The next time I sent him a card, I wrote as much as I could about what was going on in our lives. His memory may not be great, but I know that he will read it again and again.
It is personal. A part of the person is in the handwritten word. Every communication in Times New Roman looks the same. But handwriting is unique to an individual. It may not be legible or it may be perfectly elegant, but it is like a fingerprint. No one else writes like that. Some claim you can tell much about a person from their handwriting. They are probably right.
It takes time. It takes more time to write a letter. Without the convenience of backspacing, I took a little more time to compose my thoughts before committing them to paper. I can type much faster than I can write with a pen. Slowing down allows my brain to pick from a larger vocabulary.
It’s an art. With a pen in hand, my creative left brain engages in the writing process. As a result, emotion joins information on the page. Words emerge from shapes and shades and spaces, touching both the heart and mind of the reader.
What do you think? Let me know. Who knows, I might write you a letter.