Even with the chicken-scratchiest scrawl, there’s something treasurable in a handwritten letter.
Isn’t that why we box some away, impossible to relegate them to trash?
I still have letters from my Jennie Arnold Edwards Y Camp days, some likely 40 years old. And remember those creased and folded notebook paper letters passed from friend to friend in class? Why would I save those?
Closing my eyes I can see their writing on the page and it’s as familiar as their faces–Mandy’s handwriting was my favorite and it suited her; full and cheerful, each letter a stroke of happy. Kimberly’s had a sophisticated, artistic flair; Lee’s slanted backwards, tell-tale mark of a left-hander; Suzanne’s, delicate and smart.
I think I tried to copy each of them, but my handwriting always looked disappointingly like…Robin’s. Penmanship must be an extension of thumbprint, as unique as the person to whom it’s attached.
And the boys…I still have those old love notes from boys. Jeff–we broke up and got back together eight times in the eight grade, Dennis who spelled like a fourth grader, Bryan who didn’t mind telling me what he thought; and my college sweetheart-turned-husband. (I liked his best. In fact, one registers as a Favorite Gift of All Time!)
I could probably identify their penmanship quicker today than picking them out of a police line-up 25 years since I’ve seen them.
My aunt’s…my sister’s…my mother-in-law’s–their letters and cards flash before my mind’s eye and I see encouragement and love; not just in the words themselves but in their intention and deliberateness of writing.
Spirit lifting. Heart filling. Soul touching.
My favorite notes and letters are from my dad, those are the ones that steal my breath. I judged his penmanship when I was younger–it was wretched!–but oh, how I cherish it now. In each letter’s stroke, he speaks from the grave; I see his face, I hear his voice, and somehow, mysteriously, I hear his heart better now than before.
This is one of my biggest disappointments–I have no cards or letters from my mother. There’s no way she could know that one day her daughter would crave her voice in the written word. I settle for her signature on my report cards–first grade through second quarter of third grade. Third quarter my father’s signature replaced hers.
I can still touch her by tracing her name with my index finger.
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In an age of technology and instant communication, emails, texts and instant messaging replace letters, cards and phone calls. There’s something lovely lost amidst all the conveniences.
I can’t feel an email between my finger tips or admire the beautiful stationery of a text. Even though you may be able to choose the font of online communication, it’s not the same as the personality and fingerprint of a friend’s handwriting style.
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I can’t help but think this longing for…this love of…the written word is rooted in the very nature of God. Certainly his fingerprints are dotted all over Creation, but he chose to lavish us with his holy, God-breathed words through Scripture. He affirmed the significance and value of the written word because of its preservation for us.
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Today would you consider writing someone you love a word of encouragement the old fashioned way? Pen and ink, envelopes and stamps, in your beautifully unique handwriting? An overdue thank you note, words to bolster your husband, a peace offering for an estranged relationship, cards for your children if you haven’t in a while (or ever!), hope-words for your Compassion child, kindness to your inlaws–whatever letter you thought of when you began reading this post!
Twenty or 30 or 40 years from now, someone might need to hear it again :).
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By Robin Dance, author of PENSIEVE, who dances happy when Real Live Letters visit her mailbox.