I have a treasure chest, well ok —a suitcase —in my office of old handwritten letters from friends, ex-sweethearts and family. Every now and then, I open this old-fashioned suitcase and pick out a letter or two reminding me of a great love, a wonderful experience, a heart that touched mine, or vice versa.
The letters from my family members have become especially treasured, as several of them are no longer living.
As I look through them, I can’t help but notice that the letters recount my history up to a certain point in time, about twenty years ago, and then they stop. At first, I thought they stopped when I got married, which happened around the same time. But the sentiment of love and communication of connection didn’t end with "I do." Then, I realized that the handwritten letters and cards I have been collecting and cherishing all my life came to a screeching halt with the onset of computers and the Internet.
It isn’t that the sentiment stopped, rather the delivery method changed. While this technology is a blessing in so many ways, there are a couple of huge deficits to the realm of emotions and relationships that are only just beginning to be discovered.
People will argue that they are more in touch with others than ever before. And I concur, we indeed are. I can voyeuristically watch what nieces, cousins and old boyfriends are doing on a regular basis even though we are thousands of miles—and often many years—apart. And yes, I have digital files on my computer of lovely messages from people, both known and unknown, but it is not the same and here's why:
Handwriting is just as recognizable as a loved one’s voice and it takes the place of voice when the voice is no longer accessible.
When I find a letter, Post-it note, or comment in the margin of a book my mom read—written in her handwriting—I can hear her voice.
When your spouse or child or parent dies, the letters you are going to treasure most are the handwritten ones; the ones you can hold knowing they held it too, the ones where the written word speaks loudly.
In addition to the immediate gratification of an email, “blog” or social media post, take a moment to write a letter to your friends and loved ones in your own handwriting from time to time. It doesn’t have to be long or even often to be effective.
Send your message the old-fashioned way with “snail mail” so they have the fun, excitement and surprise of opening a mailbox—normally only full of bills and advertisements—to find your love—and hear your voice.
Turn back the hands of time and turn the mailbox back into a treasure chest through which hearts are touched.