When was the last time you received a handwritten letter in the mail? When was the last time you sent one? Not just a greeting card—but an actual letter on paper.
Chances are you remember receiving many more handwritten letters in years past than in recent times—maybe you even have to think as far back as childhood to recall receiving a proper letter. If you’re at all sentimental like I am, perhaps you have a box of folded letters. Letters from grandmothers who have since passed, notes folded into origami shapes which once slid covertly across desktops while the teacher’s back was turned, missives written by a deployed soldier that came to you from across the ocean, silly postcards from a traveling uncle, love letters that can still stir your heart.
One of my favorite memories is opening the mailbox to find envelopes with a blue and red striped border—airmail from penpals around the world. There’s something special about holding paper in your hand, knowing how far it’s traveled and that it was once literally in the hands of the person who sent it to you.
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These days the mailbox is full of bills, scams, pre-approved credit card offers and glossy advertisements. We receive most correspondences via email, social media and text message. Year after year, the United States Postal Service sees so much lost revenue that suspending Saturday service is a serious consideration. The mindset of the general population seems to be: Why buy a stamp or wait a week to tell someone something that I can tell them instantly for free? Keyboards on our laptops and our cellular phones have, in fact, become such a way of life that some schools have even stopped teaching cursive handwriting in favor of typing—something I believe to be a big mistake, but that’s an argument for another day.
Although I don’t feel one needs an excuse to send a handwritten letter, December is Write to a Friend Month and it’s an opportunity to not only surprise a loved one with old-fashioned snail mail, but it is also your chance to help revive a dying art form.
So this is what I’m saying—write a letter. Let your personality and emotion be captured in the rise and fall of your markings on the page, no matter how much your hand cramps up. Force yourself to use words expressive enough that the absence of emoticons is not a problem. Embrace the fact that your choice of paper, ink, envelope and stamp come together to reveal something unique about you— something that the sterile whiteness of an email background and the standard sans serif font cannot show. Spell the words out—no Twitter-esque abbreviations or acronyms to indicate laughter. Take your time, because there is also no spell-check to underline your misspellings with a squiggly red line—you may be surprised by words you’ve forgotten how to spell without a little nudge to backspace and try again.
Close the laptop, pick up a pen, and write a letter to a friend. Maybe, just maybe, your friend will write you back.