While we're lamenting the passing of the CD (and hoping it's not so), here's another thing to lament -- the loss of the handwritten letter. How quaint, you might say. Who does that any more? And why on earth would you want to take the time to write out a note, with the possibility of mistakes that can't be easily corrected with the delete key, when you can say more and say it quickly with an email? Why indeed?
I suppose this came to mind because I was the one in my family who had the time this year to send out some Christmas cards, and I decided that I'd write a personal note with each one (ok, so not every single one of them, as I'm lazy). I see no reason to send a card that says simply "Merry Christmas", or one of those photo cards, and as much as the information in a Christmas letter is of interest, nothing beats a personal note. I noticed a few things in the process. I had to think about what I wanted to say before I put pen to paper. I think that thoughtfulness and the process of organizing thoughts in the mind is useful and actually helps one to think better. Second (and here we go again), there is something pleasurable about the pen in hand, the paper (or card), the uniqueness of the ink on paper (my handwriting is, unfortunately, not so good). The ink, the pen, the card, the envelop, licking the envelope (the taste), the stamp, and then, the trip to the mailbox. It's all so real, so tangible, like a ritual of remembrance. And on a few, there was a prayer said as I closed.
Several years ago I read a short book by Margaret Shepherd entitled The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication. While some of what she says is a bit over the top, she's right on in regard to writing handwritten notes to folks. She notes how when we pick up our mail we all look for the handwritten letter, either ripping into them first or savoring them to open later after the bills and junk mail are sorted out. She's right. Since I was a child I have eagerly awaited the mail, hoping something personal came for me. Really, what I want to know is whether someone took the time to think of me. Handwritten notes convey that sense of importance, of value to a person. Indeed, iit's a way we value the image of God in others. It's also more sensual (in all the right ways) than the ubiquitous email. (Another good book on the subject is Alexandra Stoddard's Gift of a Letter.)
So, I've made a pledge to write just one such note every week. If I have the time, of course.