When I was a kid my best friend moved away to California. But we assiduously wrote each other at least once a month. We started stories for each other that the other would finish and send back, sort of like a long-term exquisite corpse story (but more filled with unicorns and magic and sailing boats) (we were in 4th grade after all). I treasure those letters still, as I know she does as well.
But by the time I was in college there was wonderful, oh so easy email! This kept me in touch with so many friends that I know I would never, ever, have had the stamina to keep up with. There are friends who live in other countries that I have not seen for countless years, but I know what they’re up to. We exchange family war stories, recipes, and we support each other in times of need. I have no doubts when I say they are still dear friends.
However. There are still things I strongly believe should be written by hand.
They’re not many. They’re quick to write. And they are the things that can even be treasured for years.
The things that should still be written by hand:
—THANK YOU NOTES
—NOTES FROM KIDS
—TO-DO LISTS & RESOLUTIONS
You are either thinking, “Why is that necessary?” or, “Well of course!” For the doubters out there, here are the reasons why these things should be hand-written.
THANK YOU NOTES
Often it is fine to email a thank you—for a dinner party, a spontaneous gift from a pal, any little thing that makes you want to reach out. But for larger gifts and huge gestures, a written thank you is precious. Everyone knows that writing things by hand takes longer and more thought. Everyone knows it involves choosing a card, composing your note, addressing, and a trip to ye olde blue poste box. It is old-fashioned in the best way. And to discover a personal note amongst all the junk mail and bills is a great way to make someone’s day a tiny bit brighter.
One of my best friends once received some hand-me-downs for her son, from a friend of a friend. And we’re talking good hand-me-downs, from Janie & Jack (which can cause sticker shock but lasts for years). My friend promptly wrote a gracious note to say thank you. And here’s the amazing part—the acquaintance was so impressed by such thoughtfulness that she has kept sending clothing for the last 3 years. The kid is the best-dressed little boy ever.
NOTES FROM KIDS
This is pretty self-explanatory. Because the notes that kids write are adorable! But also, children should always be encouraged to practice their writing skills, and should be taught the importance of gratitude. This is something parents and relatives treasure and as the years go on you can compare their development. Here is a free printable thank you card for kids that you can customize with their names.
Once after a play date my 3-1/2 year old son told us he wanted to write a letter to his friend. Letter by letter we spelled it out for him, which he then painstakingly (and frequently backwards) wrote down. We sent it off and it was met with such delight that our families became incredibly close.
Now, I’m always happy when I receive an emailed card or image from a friend during the holidays, or even a holiday emoji text. But the ones you get in the mail are so much better. You can line them up on your mantle and be surrounded by the glowing faces of loved ones and their personal greetings.
For holiday cards you should feel free to just scribble your names or pencil in a brief note, like “Hope to see you in the new year!” Even the tiniest personalization can mean something. There is a scene in Orange Is The New Black where a character receives a Christmas card from her ex and estranged son. But the moving part, the part that made tears well up in her eyes, was that this time the son had signed his name by hand, opening the door just a tiny bit. And that made all the difference.
Plus if you do an unusual one people keep them and you feel like the cool kid in school. This is ours from 2014.
If you can’t visit someone who is bereaved, the next best thing is a hand-written note. There are two reasons: the recipient knows how personal such a note is, the effort that goes into it, and because it is a physical reminder of just how many people care for you. It doesn’t immediately get archived in email.
I have my own anecdote for a condolence card that really meant something to me. My cat of 17 years passed away two years ago, and I was devastated. It is can be very hard for people to understand how heartbreaking such a loss is.
I received a card from my vet that was incredibly cheesy—yet it made me cry anyway. This is what it said:
Somewhere on the other side, our sweet companions play,
certain that we’ll come for them on the appointed day.
So having said our sad goodbyes, let healing thoughts begin,
with memories to cherish until we meet again.
How cheesy is that? And yet how precious is it when your vet, who has so little time, writes in it, “I am so sorry for your loss, Moké was more like a soul mate to you than just a pet. You have my deepest condolences”. I have kept it all this time.
Okay, now I have to stop tearing up and get onto the next one.
TO-DO LISTS & RESOLUTIONS
There are many great apps for lists, like Teux Deux, that make your life easier. But if you want to engrave something into your brain there is nothing better than writing it down. It has been proven that the act of writing imprints the message into your memory far more than typing. The combination of thinking plus motor skills ingrains it much deeper. Plus, there is the extreme satisfaction of scratching out something you’ve accomplished.
Something I’ve done for years is have a pad of paper on my desk, that I write a fresh list in every morning. If something from the day before has not been done it gets rewritten on the next day’s list. An easy thing to do is every time you have a junk piece of 8-1/2″ x 11″, cut or tear it into quarters and clip it together. I never feel bad about then using them up for my to-do’s and grocery lists.
One step further is to write down your goals and tack them up—here is an excellent article from Forbes magazine that details why.
Aside from those little 5 things, embrace email whole-heartedly!
Do you have any stories about a time a hand-written note warmed your heart? Or one you’ve written that has meant a lot to someone else?