The letters you write, address, stamp, and send around the world carry more than just information. There is hidden value in the hand written letter.
In my basement are letters from my father, Bill, addressed to me when I lived in Japan in the early eighties. My father has been dead for seventeen years, nine months and five days. I have my father’s pipe, his leather jacket, and the letters he wrote me.
In my basement are letters from my grandmother, Grace, written to her friend Edna. The letters are dated from 1927 until June, 1933. She died two years later when my mother was three. All I have from my grandmother are the letters she had written to a friend, a piece of fabric from her wedding dress, and a plate from a her tea set when she was a child.
In my basement are letters my husband wrote me every day for nine months when he was living in California and I was living in Japan, before I moved to The United States to marry him. My husband, Nick, is asleep upstairs as I write this. I have all of his letters, his dirty laundry to wash, and his love.
I just went in the basement to pull out the files labeled, Father Letters and Grace. And to find the box of letters Nick wrote me.
I can hold the papers they wrote on, and I can read about their lives. The papers I am holding are papers they held. And for a few minutes when I read, I am in their world, listening to what was important to them. Finding out about life, through their eyes. And I can read again about how my husband almost didn’t marry me because I rearranged all of the furniture in his apartment when I came to visit.
There is information about weather and climate from the prairies in Saskatchewan where my grandmother lived. I could find this information if I were to do a search for weather on the internet. But historical data on weather and crop growth would never tell me what was important in my grandmother’s life, how many cows she had to milk, or how many acres they farmed. (She had five cows and seven hundred and sixty acres.)
The Hidden Value of Writing Personal Letters
Personal letters are sent to inform and build friendships. Personal letters ask questions and fill in details about someone’s life.1
Personal letters are a time stamp in history. How people communicated, the methods of transportation, how they lived. If someone had a garden or bought produce in town. I know how many cows my grandmother milked. I know when my father was going to go hunting for deer, and I know how close I came to not being a Hodges.
I treasure the letters from my father, grandmother, and husband.
We can read about their life and see the world through their eyes after they are gone. My father and grandmother are dead. My husband is not dead, just asleep. But his letters still have great value for me.
Why Hand Written Letters Matter
In a world where you can send a message in a few minutes with email, twitter, snapchat, or the latest popular way to contact a friend in another city, state, or continent, a letter posted though the mail carries a wonderful appeal.
I can read, and re-read the letters.
What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call.
— Liz Carpenter, once press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson
Slow is the new black. Or was that orange is the new black? So slow is the new quick?
Why am I thinking about writing letters today? Do letters really matter?
Today my friend sent me a message that her daughter had a baby girl. And today a friend told me she just found out she has lung cancer. She has an eight year old daughter.
And what will they have in thirty years? Will they have letters to hold? Will their parents give them a password to their email, so they can read about their life.
Reading about my friends lives today made me see that life is fragile. And the things that matter most are the people in our lives.
There are many kinds of writers, fiction, non-fiction, drama, romance, suspense, poetry, children’s stories. Some writing we get paid for and some writing we don’t. Some writing is written for a large audience and some writing is only written for one person.
If only one person reads your writing, the writing still has value. A personal letter to a friend or to your child is worth more than money can buy.
Writing a personal letter tells someone you care about them. Of course, a quick email also shows someone you care, but an email is not the same as sending a letter through the mail.
Why do you think writing letters is important? Do you prefer to get an email or a letter in the mail? Tell us what you think in the comments.
Write a letter. A real letter to a real person. Talk about your life, and ask questions about your friend’s life. Write about how many cows you have to milk, or how many acres you are farming. Write about going deer hunting or about where you want to propose.
Write a letter, leave a legacy, and let someone know you remember and you care.
Please share in the comments section how you feel when you get a letter in the mail. You don’t have to post the contents of your personal letter here. Because, well, it is personal. But, if you do write a letter, how did you feel writing a letter and posting it in the mail?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Pamela writes about art, creativity, and reflections on life with six cats, two dogs, two birds, and seven litter boxes. She would love to meet you at ipaintiwrite.com.
Pamela Hodges serves as the Controller for the City overseeing the areas of Accounting, Utility Customer Service, Tax and Revenue Collection, Purchasing and Budget and Management Analysis. Pamela came to the City in March 1995 as the Chief Accountant managing the Accounting Division of Finance. In 1997, her title was changed to Controller and the annual budget process added to her responsibilities. In 2000, her duties were further expanded to include managing Utility Customer Service, Tax and Revenue Collection and Purchasing. She served as acting Finance Director for five months during 2001.
Prior to coming to the City, Pamela worked in public accounting with KPMG Peat Marwick for six years serving several governmental clients in the Dallas area, including City of Dallas, City of Plano and Collin County. Pamela holds a bachelor’s degree from Southwest Texas State University. She is a Certified Public Accountant and is active in the Government Financial Officers Association at the state and national level.