Writing letters is something that hardly anyone does anymore, and it makes me sad. In fact, aside from annual Christmas “letters”, I’m not sure I know one person who writes letters. I know three people who send occasional cards, but I think that’s the extent of people I know who write personal letters/cards/notes to people in the mail. Listen to me. I sound like a commercial for the post office. The onset of email and social networking like facebook and twitter take away a lot of the “need” for letters, but I’m still advocating. How many people do you send thoughtful e-mails to? How much do you really build a relationship in 140 characters? What relationship do you have that would benefit from some heartfelt communication?
I suppose I was socialized early in these practices. I wrote letters to a pen pal in New Zealand for years when I was a kid. My grandmother taught me the importance of thank you cards, and I hardly write only “love, Jessica” in cards I send to people. The summer I spent as a missionary in Hungary also taught me a lot about writing letters. It meant so much to me to get letters from people back home when I was away from them. When I taught, I made it a point to have my kids write letters every year. Sometimes to me, sometimes to themselves, sometimes to a family member. I think letter writing can be so cathartic.
Some really good friends of mine went to serve in Africa when I was in college. I faithfully wrote letters to them every month during their term. After they came back for their first furlough, they were here for quite a while. After their return, I had fallen into the trap of the internet and social media, and just didn’t write very much at all. Writing to them was good for me. It was a blessing to know that I was reminded often to pray over this family, and to know that I knew they prayed for me upon receiving my letters. It was a good time in my life, and I’ve decided to return to this practice. I just received their new address and am committing to write 12 letters in 2012. I suppose this is a weird sort of New Year’s resolution, but that’s not what I’m calling it. It’s just me being mindful to build my relationship with this family through handwritten letters, the kind you get excited about when you see them in the mail. Anyone want to join in? Maybe you’re not too keen on letter writing, but maybe there’s something else you used to do that you associate with good memories? Do you have a 12 in ’12 you want to participate in? Maybe it’s reading a book, exercising, visiting the beach, taking photographs, or playing on a playground. Whatever it is, it’s only once a month. I’d encourage you to try it out.