Grit Blogs > A Well-Worn Path

Bringing back hand written letters -- one letter at a time

How long has it been since you received a hand-written letter in the mail?  How long since you sent one? 

I honestly can’t remember the last time I found a newsy, hand-written letter in my mailbox and I miss receiving them.  To read words chosen carefully by someone who believes I am worth the time it took to gather the materials and to share their thoughts, while thinking of me with every loop in a word touches me like nothing else can. 

Growing up I loved sending and receiving letters.  I had pen pals in France and Spain and I wrote to friends in neighboring towns.  The best part about writing everyone letters is that they almost always wrote me back and when I found one of their letters waiting for me in the mailbox, I couldn’t wait to tear open the envelope and read what they had written.  I’d read the letter as fast as I could, hitting all the main points, gathering the gist of how life was going for them since our last correspondence.  Then I’d read the letter again, this time very slowly, taking in every detail they shared.   

As soon as I could, I’d write my friends back, commenting on their news, and adding bits of pieces of my own to the thread of our ongoing conversations.  There was nothing like savoring the delicious hand chosen and hand written news from a friend and knowing that they were looking forward to the same from me.  I saved many of the letters from my friends so I could revisit them when I felt lonely, or re-read them and feel the presence of someone I missed as though they were right there with me. 

These days it’s easier to hurriedly send an email or text than to sit down with pen and paper and hand write a letter.  Don’t get me wrong, I love email and texting.  They are quick and easy and allow me to stay connected with many people near and far.  But, since I rarely keep emails, they are not the same as receiving hand written letters that can be kept as reminders of our connection.   

Important pieces of our history, as a nation, as a modern civilization and as individuals are preserved in letters.  They offer us glimpses into what others held important and how they were feeling as they steered their way through life.  Without those letters we might never know the details of the human condition in times past. 

With the loss of letter writing we are also losing big chunks of our personal history. Most of the ways in which we communicate with our modern technology are little more than blips across a lit screen. Without letters that can live on without us what will future generations learn about our time on this planet?  How will they know what we valued, who we loved, how we navigated heart break, disappointment and how we celebrated the joys and triumphs of our lives? 

So, I’m on a mission.  I have made a vow to write one hand-written letter every week.  That’s not a huge investment of time or effort and even at my busiest, is completely doable.  I’ve been doing this for several weeks and everyone who has been a recipient has been touched by and appreciative of having once again received a hand-written message.   

I know this because they emailed to tell me so. 

cheryl aker
5/17/2013 6:31:21 PM

After my husband and I got married in 2005, we immediately moved to another state. I had a small group of friends I wanted to make sure I stayed in close touch with, so I decided to start sending cards every month. And I've kept it up for seven years now! When we moved back to our home state in 2010, I just switched who I was sending cards to. I usually like finding funny cards, because they make me laugh when I pick them out, and I can picture the recipients smiling when they receive them. I don't know anyone who is not delighted when they receive a letter in the mail...especially something that is not a bill! ha ha Recently, I've been learning how to make my own greeting cards so that what they receive is truly personal. And ever since we moved onto our homestead, I'm never short of farm tales to regale them with! Letters I receive from friends and from my grandad, back when he was alive (I'm the only family member that wrote to him, therefore I'm the only family member that has letters from him!) are absolute treasure to me!!

nebraska dave
2/28/2013 4:33:24 PM

Lou Ann, my mother was a master at writing letters. When she died she had over 100 penpals some since she was 16 years old. I don't know how she kept up with them all. My sister cleaned out a storage room and found that she had kept all the letters she had ever received since writing began. About a year ago I felt the urge to follow in my mother's steps and aqacquireome penpals. I scoured the pages of GRIT magazine and found several propects. I actually ended up with about 10 penpals which is about all I can keep up with. We have communicated for many months and probably will continue. They all hand write to me but alas I just don't quite hand write back to them. I use the computer to compile a letter much like the blog posts on my blog here at GRIT. They seem to love it. So I guess that I'm kind half way into each world. I too save the letters and have a shoe box full from just the last year. Have a great hand written letter day.

joan pritchard
2/28/2013 3:09:41 AM

My family definitely agrees! We write hand written letters almost weekly and almost never email except to share photos. I have a huge box of saved letters in the trunk that will some day speak of history.