The art of letter writing.
My mother made us write thank you notes when I was growing up. At first I really hated doing it but after a while I started writing letters to my grandparents just for the sake of writing to them. The best part was getting letters BACK in the mail! I wrote to my grandparents in Ohio at least every other month for most of my adult life until they were gone. When my Grandma Jane died I started writing her sister, Aunt Carolyn as my surrogate grandma. I still write to Grandma Alice who is 98 in Indiana. She types letters to me on her typewriter!!!
Any time I went to camp my mother planned out the letters so that I got a letter every day of the week. I was always the envy of my fellow campers.
I had pen-pals all over the world when I was in high school. I took German and French and had pen-pals in Germany, France, Portugal, Australia, Switzerland and Austria. I used to go to the post-office and buy “airmail” letters – they were made of a very flimsy paper and folded over to become the envelope.
I have known my husband since kindergarten and we started dating in college. He went every summer to USMC OCS (officer candidate school) when we were in college. I wrote him every day and had a great time decorating the envelopes with stickers and hearts drawn in crayon. Apparently, he had to do push-ups every time he got a letter and when I went to his OCS graduation his sergeant said he was glad to finally meet “the Crayola Kid”. Scott wrote me whenever he could and drew hilarious cartoons of what they were going through. My favorite was his take on being chased by a beaver in the dark when he was trying to be stealthy crossing a river during a night training exercise.
My mother still sends me a post-card no matter where she is traveling.
I still get to write letters. I sponsor children through the Christian Humanitarian organizations, Compassion International and World Help. I try to write to each child once a month. One month I will use the “online” letter writing app which is very easy and convenient. But on the alternating months I try to hand-write a letter to each child and include stickers and coloring pages. I also write letters through an organization called The Lydia Project which supports women with cancer. Every month I send hand-written cards to women with cancer to encourage them in the midst of struggle and illness.
I believe this is a mostly dying art. My kids snapchat, text, email and message their friends but never, ever sit down and compose a letter to their grandparents or pen-pals in other countries. They are missing out on the small joy of picking out the perfect card or piece of stationary; of mastering beautiful handwriting; of finding interest in daily life and conveying that to another; of sitting quietly and thinking exclusively about a particular loved one for an uninterrupted 10 or 15 minutes; of enjoying an interlude in busyness where thoughts and activity can slow down just a little bit for just a little while.