Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Law of the Letter

Dear Reader,

Ok, it’s not so much a law as a discussion.

Maybe less a discussion than a remembrance.

Recently I wrote about letters written by my lovely wife to a friend in their youth that were recently returned to her. They’ve been interesting for her to re-read. In addition to exposing the lie that was my story of when we met, the letters also reveal things my lovely wife thought about in those days and provided some insights into her character.

I’m not going to reveal any of that. Let my lovely wife write her own blog if she wants to spill all that. (Don’t hold your breath, by the way. My greatest surprise was seeing that my wife wrote actual letters at all: she really does not like to write, and I understood her remarkable sacrifice to write to me during my mission.)

But these letters do demonstrate some things my children may never know: the value of the written word – and by written word I mean word written by hand on paper and put in an envelope and mailed – not half-words typed into a telephone keypad to be sent out into the ether to be captured by another phone, consumed in seconds and deleted forever.

These letters used complete sentences, capitalization, spelling, paragraphs – all that stuff your English teachers have been trying to get you to do! These letters required some organization of thoughts, because each letter included multiple thoughts and stories (unlike texts and tweets); each letter included reflections and conclusions and even promises of what was to come.

And, perhaps most importantly now, these letters could be saved to be read later. They are historical artifacts. I suppose there may be some giant repository of electronic stuff that contains tweets and texts and Facebook status lines, but I certainly don’t know how to get at it.

Letters still have a place in our world, even beyond credit card offers that come in the mail. In my lovely wife’s family, for instance, there’s a monthly family letter to which each sibling (or spouse of sibling in the case of my lovely wife) contributes. That letter (which is emailed as an attachment, ready for printing) serves as part of an ongoing family history, recording events and milestones.

I have written specific letters to my children at key times in their lives or mine. Most of those go as e-mails now, but I hope they’re still saved for future reference. I save copies of each one. Topics range from financial planning to politics to family relations to gospel principles. Some are sent to individuals and some to the children as a group. The value of the letter over a phone call is that I can think more carefully about content, and my child can choose to read or not read, and I’ll never know the difference.

We still encourage our children to hand-write thank-you notes. It’s our small contribution to their letter-writing education.

May you engage occasionally in the great art of letter writing.

Best Regards,


1 comment:

  1. I like that you don't just have a "wife."

    You have a "lovely wife."

    That's a lovely sentiment.