When’s the last time you put pen to paper?
I don’t mean that grocery list hanging from the magnets on your refrigerator. (Admit it! Some of you have it. I’m brave enough to admit it!) No, I mean taking up a pen or pencil, grabbing a sheet of paper, and writing your thoughts, feelings, events of the week, what have you and then posting it. Can you think of the last time you did this?
This came to my mind after I walked into my kids’ rooms. Yes, I said kids . . . all three rooms for all four kids. We were cleaning up laundry and – let’s face it – garbage from their rooms. When I looked up, back complaining of the up and down motion, I spotted it. There, pegged to the boys’ cork board, was a letter. It was three years old, now, but it was a letter I’d written to Sam, my son, when he was visiting my parents out of state. Above his brother’s bed? A postcard, sent from Los Angeles from me . . . on my birthday.
Curious, I went into their sister’s room and there, on her blackboard, attached with a magnet – a letter from me from the same time period. In their older sister’s room, her bulletin board still on the wall . . . a series of letters to her from when she lived in California, starting school without me while I finished out my job in Texas.
When I asked the boys and my middle daughter why they had these hanging up – the answers were almost exactly the same.
“You wrote them to us. We like that a lot.” Paraphrasing the rest of what they said – it meant a lot to them. I took the time to sit down, one at a time, and send them a letter in the mail. They all expressed my love for them and my desire to know what they did while I was away from them. They all said innocuous things while telling them, in the mere action of using my own hand, that they were important enough for me to sit down and make the effort.
I have to be honest, I do this more than you’d think. We live, sure, in a world surrounded and enabled by technology. It’s really simple to get out the phone and text:
“Hi how R U?”
Sure, you can induce sentiment with a text or an email. Email, at least, you can put thought into it and write something but, let’s be honest, how often to you read more than the subject line and the first couple sentences? If it’s a long email, in this day and age, it’s something you get to “later” and later never comes.
But a letter . . . that’s tactile. You have to think out what you’re writing or the mistake shows on the page. Either they see what you started to write or you start over. When you send it, licking that stamp and adhering it to the envelope you have to take it to the mailbox. Getting a letter in the mail, you don’t get a subject line. If you’re lucky you know who it’s from . . . but there’s no subject line. Curiosity gets the better of you and – if you’re organized – you slice open the top of the envelope. If you’re anxious to see what’s inside you rip it open.
The action of putting pen to paper puts forethought, emotion, real effort into the act of sending your words to another person. Even if you’re three states away, the fact you write alone implies that this person is worth your time and effort. They are on your mind and obviously deep enough in your thoughts that you chose to do this. Where twitter and Facebook are littered with posts and writings of people who write the craziest most inane things online only to end up apologizing later . . . a letter makes you think. You don’t put something in a letter or on paper that you have no intention of taking back.
I smile after seeing the paper tacked to the wall in the kids’ rooms. I smile . . . because the reasons they kept them are the very reasons I wrote those letters in the first place.