The World Needs More Letters...
Here's an inspiring TED video I wanted to share:
The above video is about the world needing more love letters. And well, it struck the romantic cord inside of me.
It's been awhile since I made a point of writing letters, but I used to. I used to write letters every Saturday to my friends at college who waited to get mail from home. Even though it was a small and close-knit theology school, going to college there was sometimes a lonely place, where you wonder if everyone you ever knew back home forgot about you once you left. You work so hard, have little money, live in a strange world with people you don't know and many feel the vacuum left behind without the nurturing comforts they were used to most of their life.
Trust me, letters and care packages from friends were nearly as welcome back in my college 20 years ago as they are in the military. And not everyone had loving family and friends back home to write them for them. Little handwritten Saturday notes with goofy cartoons and stickers were a way to brighten someone's week.
Later I wrote letters for cancer victims and children. Again, it's one of those things people forget about doing anymore. Sometimes at the very onset, people get a flood of attention and well wishes, and a bunch of greeting cards with little more than a name signed. But come 6 months later? When things are still scary and no one remembers anymore? There's not even that signed card. Three months, 6 months, a year after a loss, a trauma, a triumph: these are times people need encouragement most of all. And yes, we need them after triumphs too.
You could send them an e-card, perhaps. And that's something. But there's nothing like the power of a handwritten note that says, "I'm thinking of you. I'm still here. And I'm proud of the fight you're putting up."
I also used to keep hand-written journals. In spite of being a dysgraphic adult I far preferred journaling by hand than by computer. I have ever since reading Harriet The Spy when I was a kid. Unlike Harriet, I wasn't interested in writing down what people did when no one was looking, but I did very much enjoy the meditative process. It's something I haven't done in a long time. But today, I can still pick up one of my handwritten journals from 4th grade and immediately travel back in time. Flowing through every stroke of the pen, every stroke that I made, I reach back in time and hold the hand of that child I once was. Remembering what it was like to be that kid. Even from so long ago, the connection is so strong I almost remember the stroking of each entry as if in the moment.
The handwritten word is so very powerful. And it's a wonder that a dysgraphic person like me ever learned to love it. Even if I do struggle with it to this day. It's too easy to take the art for granted.
I have tried to collect letters and recipes in the handwriting of each of my family members possible, alive or dead. Even my grandparents had trouble understanding my desire for hand written recipes. They wanted to type them for me and I kept saying, no. Please give me recipes in your own handwriting. Because that's unique. And when I touch the letters, it's like reaching out for your hand. I want my own grand kids to know you, some way, some how in a way that can't be done so personally. What better way than through food prepared and written about by your own hand?
Handwriting is an art form and it carries more emotion in the formation of each character than anything typed. There's simply more voice in the strokes of the hand-written word, vs. the print of the digital. And I must admit, like my Grandma Dot, I have saved every single real letter I've ever received since childhood. One of my favorites contains advice that a group of out-of-state high school friends collaborated on and sent me, trying to help me with a stalker situation I didn't know how to handle. Each one signed their names. I have no idea where any of them are today. But I hang onto their letter and hope to see them again someday.
I can't think of the last time I've received a handwritten letter myself. I think this weekend I will challenge myself to hand-write a letter to someone. Maybe roll the dice or draw a name and just do it. Even if I might have to do some recon to find a mailing address. Maybe just write something to leave out in the world somewhere for someone else to find unawares. But just sit down and for once, write a real letter. What do you think? How about you?
Julia M. Chambers