“More than kisses letters mingle souls.” ~ John Donne
When was the last time you went to the mailbox and got a letter?
Not a bill. Not junk mail. Not an advertisement that looks like it is a check. An actual letter. You remember letters, right? Handwritten notes on pretty stationery, maybe with some pictures doodled in the margins? It’s been a while, right?
I was a kid during the 1970s. (I know that makes me officially old.)
I was old enough that I could ride my bike down to the post office to get the mail by myself. I had a red banana bike with tassels on the handlebars and I pedaled as fast as I could down the road to the post office. The mail was sorted twice a day, and I would try to be there right as the postmaster, who was also my neighbor, was finishing up.
Getting a letter in the mail was like hitting the lottery.
Letters were communication, but they were so much more.
Getting a letter in the mail transported you through time and space. When I got a letter in the mail, I would read it again and again—laughing out loud at the jokes, imagining my friend telling me about what she was doing, and hearing my grandmother’s voice as she described picking cucumbers from the garden to make pickles.
Letters used to be our way of connecting across the miles.
Fast forward through the decades: email, text, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have replaced letter writing almost completely.
Now, we are all in such a hurry that we don’t even write full sentences: replacing our well-crafted sentences with hmu, smh, lmao, ttyl, brb, and other combinations of letters. We use emojis to indicate how we are feeling—no longer able to describe how we are feeling in words. We track our friends and our psuedo-friends on social media so we can feel like we are a part of their lives, and the pressure to make sure we are regularly posting the events of our lives is real.
What has happened to letter writing?
We buy cards (have you bought a card lately? I paid $7.95 for a card last month that sang and lit up) and then we just sign our name. Is that all our relationships are worth? Have we lost so much of our language that we cannot articulate what the people in our lives mean to us using the power of our words?
Words have the power to move us in ways that emojis and hashtags never will.
While there is something to be said for the brevity of 140 characters, there is also something to be said about imagery and description and detail. Years from now, do you think your children or grandchildren will cherish that text you sent with the winky face emoji more than they would a letter that you took the time to write?
So, today I challenge you to write a letter.
Write a letter that you will actually send.
Write words that you have been longing to say or write words that are difficult to say. Write about your gratitude. Write about your loss. Write about your joy. Write about your despair.
Write about anything, but just write.
Put your feelings in an envelope with an address and a stamp. Feel that sense of joy and connection as you drop the letter in the mailbox. Imagine the look on the person’s face as they open the mailbox and see that you wrote to them! First the look of puzzlement, then the beginning of a smile, then a little chuckle as they hear your voice reading your words aloud.
Make someone’s day. Write.