Discourse in American culture can be summed up in two words, mobile apps. These nifty little tools allow us to communicate instantly with short bursts of text to make dinner plans, remind hubby to pick up a gallon of milk, or check in on a teenager. Not only can we “converse” with single letters, but also pictures have made a comeback from the ancient ruins of Mesopotamia. Emoji’s, which are modern examples of hieroglyphics, add emotion to our texts, verifying the fact we have come full circle in 8,000 years.
Fortunately, hieroglyphics only lasted so long, as their inability to tell the whole story was bothersome. A picture of men holding spears with a large elephant in front of them left too many questions unanswered. Who were these brave men? How did their hunt turn out? Did they all survive? The story being depicted was significant and yet there was no way of knowing the outcome.
Thankfully, the alphabet was invented, and the greatest stories of mankind began to be captured through written letters. Wisdom, history, life lessons, feelings of hope, love, and tragedy were shared through hand written letters. Mountains or oceans did not bind these lasting stories. Battlefields and catastrophes could not impede their discovery by future generations. The words written were revealing, but so too was the paper, the penmanship, the smell of the person, perhaps their surroundings; all the individuality had been captured.
What concerns me is our modern writing with its simple text messages, removes the essence of our existence from history. As brief as a time that we are here, our thoughts are forever lost in cyber space. In 50 years, no one will know my beliefs, the lessons I have learned, the people I enjoyed spending time with, or the ones that impacted me most.
Which brings me to my point. Did anyone else notice last year, the lack of Christmas cards delivered to their mailbox? I certainly did. I understand that one stamp is now worth what my father described as an amazing afternoon to a 12 year old in 1955. He could get his haircut, take in an entire afternoon of movies, have ice cream, and still have money in his pocket at the end of the day. So yes, the stamp is expensive. Writing with pen and paper is cumbersome; you can’t easily backspace. But what is capturing our existence? Facebook? Instagram? What is capturing you?
My grandmother wrote hand written letters to our family. I can still smell her perfume on the paper, which is remarkable considering her letters are 30 years old. She talked about simple things happening in her small town of Fair Haven, New York. She mentioned that the bay had white caps from a recent storm. Stories, where now as I read them as an adult, reveal her character and faith. Her letters kept her real to me long after she passed away.
This time of year we begin to focus on being thankful, seeing family, reminding ourselves what is important. Can we bring writing letters with pen and paper back? Can we share with our children thoughts that are important to us? Can we share simple stories, maybe even family history on something far more special than an emoji? Your letter may find its way into a special book or Bible, and become the treasure of a future family member. Can you write a letter to a dear friend that shows you are thinking of them? This letter may be tucked in a drawer and re-read on days they may feel lonely or without hope. Our existence is important, and is something that should last long after a cell phone is shut off, or a text is deleted. I believe your family and friends will want to cherish you long after you have left them for a better place. Give your family and dear friends a true gift this holiday season. Give them your stories, your wisdom, your praise, your hope, and certainly most of all your love. Write them a letter, stamp it, and mail it to them.