In our age, when electronic communication has all but supplanted ink on paper, it is easy to overlook the great value of a handwritten letter. Precisely because it is so effortless and inexpensive to dispatch messages, the value of an ink on paper letter has risen even higher. In an age when we communicate online with all our friends at once, a handwritten letter emphasizes, “I really care about you.”
History gifts us with letters between John and Abigail Adams as well as Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine. Written with ink on paper, the letters reveal warmth of feeling and closeness that the men’s political nemeses probably never suspected they possessed. Letters between parents and children, friends, and even business acquaintances give us glimpses into multi-faceted lives otherwise too easy to dismiss with stereotypes and generalizations.
The handwritten word lets us forge relationships while hasty, impulsive electronic communication often serves to sever them. Let’s take a lesson from the years preceding the Flood.
And it was, when man began to increase…
ר י ב ל ר ו ב
to increase quarrel
V o R al V i R
In Hebrew, the word for “increase” is ‘laRoV’. The word is similar to the word for quarrel, ‘RiV’. In Hebrew, words that share core letters beg to be examined together. Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that this phrase doesn’t refer to population size. It is describing people who have lost a shared moral framework and see each other as rivals rather than partners. Ten friends is a stimulating group; ten random people is an annoyance; ten enemies is a mob. Genesis 6:2 goes on to say how women became the victims of this lack of fraternal feeling. Economically, sexually and socially, things rapidly went downhill from there. rapidly
Now is an appropriate time to make sure that you are building real relationships. Writing handwritten letters is one helpful tool. Here are five tips:
1. Obtain a nice fountain pen rather than using the promotional ballpoint pen from your last hotel room.
2. Acquire some good quality notepaper rather than using an 8 ½ X 11 piece of white paper you removed from the copier machine. Get matching envelopes.
3. Keep pen, paper, envelopes and stamps together in some handy location so that when you consider writing a letter, you can instantly follow up with the action.
4. Write alone and in silence, far from your computer and phone. You’ll enjoy seeing how pen and paper stimulate your brain once you’ve banished the electronics.
5. Think about what you wish to achieve and plan an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Write a draft; hone it and write a final copy.
You’ll get better and better at handwriting letters; your penmanship and style will both quickly improve. Don’t allow thoughts of posterity to inhibit you; not all your letters will be worth keeping and not all will be kept. Every now and again, you’ll write a gem that will show up years into the future and bring delight to others.