Sending a letter is an excellent way of traveling somewhere else
without moving anything but your heart.
Tales of Count Lucanor by Don Juan Manuel, 1575
I recently read a post by journalist Maria Shriver about her delight in receiving a handwritten note. She said that it really stood out amongst the stack of bills, mailers, and other junk that she, like all of us, usually receive. She continued, "you open it up and see the handwriting and you know that it’s something personal and that it’s almost certainly from someone who cares about you."
It is so rare these days and I know exactly how she felt. Handwritten letters and thank-you notes seem to slowly becoming an extinct form of correspondence giving way to the convenience and expediency of tweets, texts, and emails. But for some of us, there is something special about writing and receiving a handwritten note.
"Why?" you might ask. It is because sending a card or letter is the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door. Ink from your pen touches the card stock, with each written word your thoughts fall onto the card, your fingers seal the envelope. Something tangible from your world travels through machines and hands, and deposits itself in another’s mailbox. Your card is then carried inside as an invited guest. The card that was sitting on your desk, now sits on another’s. The recipient handles the card that you handled, sees the familiar scrawl of your handwriting, and with each word read, takes to heart your thoughts and feelings. Throughout the ages, hand written notes have expressed love, joy, life, discovery, sorrow, and triumph in intimate ways that the digital coldness of Cyberspace simply cannot express.
I once read that the art of hand writing a letter is the purity of expression. Personal. Endearing. Purposeful. Thoughtful. In many ways, what it embodies is profoundly human.
It is the reason why, from our very beginning, we promised ourselves that with every charitable gift, no matter how big or small, we would always hand-write a personal note of appreciation. To be perfectly honest, I was never a big letter writer, and as I have learned after writing a good number of thank you notes, it is one thing to express thankfulness, it is another to make it heartfelt. Finding the right words, placement, and tone to convey my gratitude and appreciation is not an easy thing to do and I may not always be successful, but I have found the experience to be quite cathartic and personally meaningful.
Writing a handwritten letter doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be you being you conveying something you want to say to someone you hold dear. So, pick up pen and paper, choose someone to write to, and start writing.
I'll be waiting to hear from you.
(to be continued)