This week, I’ve been thinking of several topics of interest to write about, but then, I sat down and wrote all my thank you notes for the thoughtful gifts family and friends gave me last weekend for my birthday. As I was writing these notes, all different sizes and designs scattered about my desk, it got me to thinking about the art of letter writing, and writing thank you notes.
What has happened today, that this beautiful form of communication and gratitude has diminished? Some people blame it on the younger generation, but maybe that’s not fair, because we were all younger generations at one time or another. And, some people blame it on technology. It’s just so much easier to send a quick email thank you, or even a text thank you. Does that still hold the same sentiment?
There is nothing like walking to your mailbox, pulling out a stack of mail, separating it into the requisite piles – bills, bills, bills, junk, junk, junk, then, what’s this? Your eyes light up, you quickly flip the envelope over but you know whom it’s from because you recognize the handwriting! Yes, handwriting. That’s something isn’t it? Everything else in that pile gets pushed aside and you open that special letter. Maybe it’s a birthday card, maybe it’s a thank you note for something you’ve sent, and sometimes, it’s just a wonderful letter catching you up on a friend’s life.
While you sit in that chair, absorbed in the note you just received, you’re transported somewhere else, to a friendly, familiar, kind, warm place. The piles of bills and junk recede from view, and you make a connection. Why not continue this beautiful art form? My mom required my brother and me send thank you notes for all gifts, from all occasions – birthday, Christmas, even a childhood Easter basket or two! And, we’ve both kept up the habit. It was a great habit to instill in us.
I talk to friends, like myself…my age and usually older, who appreciate and continue to practice this art form, but see many of their own family’s younger generations – grandkids, nieces, nephews – not acknowledge a gift sent. Not even a text. It’s not about receiving thanks for something you’ve sent as most of us send gifts out of love with no obligatory return. It’s more about the personal connection. It’s a time to re-connect with a cross-country relative. Yes, you can do that on Facebook and the like, I get it people! But when you take the time to write a few lines, say thank you and tell your great aunt, or grandparent how you’re doing, or what’s coming up in school, believe me, it goes a long way!
For a good read check out the book, More than Words. Illustrated Letters from The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art by Liza Kirwin. This is a wonderful collection of letters that include illustrations taking the practice of letter writing to an artful place. I bought two copies about a year or so ago…one for me, and one I sent to a good friend in Alabama. We still enjoy corresponding with the art of letter writing. And, yes, we still text, email, even FB…although me, very begrudgingly.
“Letter writing is probably the most beautiful manifestation in human relations, in fact, it is its finest residue.” – John Graham (1886-1961) Painter