The subject of correspondence, the actual handwritten word in letters, notes and cards came up in a conversation the other day. We were bemoaning the fact that in this era of email, texting, tweeting etc., as a society, we are in danger of losing a precious form of communication. So I've now become the self-appointed Cheerleader for Correspondence...the real stuff with pens and paper, note cards and stationary...not emoticons, shortened versions of words and incorrect spelling!
Growing up in the 50's a couple of major life lessons were penmanship and writing a thank you note. I know, I know...ancient history to some of us. Over the years fewer and fewer people communicate in this seemingly old school way. I am fortunate to still receive notes or cards and I am thrilled when that happens. Someone has chosen a piece of stationary or card just for me and sat down, thought about the message, actually written it with a pen, found my address and beyond all odds, a stamp and mailed it. And to be fair I must say I receive them from the younger generations. All is not lost...I merely want to promote it.
It was somewhat humorous but rather pitiful when a couple of years ago a young man who lived with me during the school year was compelled to write a thank you note to a college admissions counselor. He did not require my help in writing the note but when it came to the envelope he had no idea where the addresses went on the envelope nor where one placed the stamp! He is 17 years old. Lost art...yes, with some folks, I believe it is. I'm not going to rail against technology that has taken over so many parts of our lives but I am going to suggest some ways to revitalize the art of correspondence.
Keeping writing supplies organized and handy is paramount. Take a drawer, basket or any kind of container and stock it with good pens, note cards, stationary and stamps. Stay on top of birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births, deaths and any other occasion that may require correspondence. You may employ an address book or an electronic version of the same. A monthly perusal of a calendar or computer reminder will keep you abreast of people you want to remember with a card or letter.
When I travel I usually pick up postcards and unusual cards to bring home for later use. I started this habit on my honeymoon in Europe. We had used nearly every dime we had to make the trip and had little left over for shopping so I fed my shopping hunger by purchasing beautiful cards. I continue to do that but, I'm buying most of them at yard, estate sales and thrift stores, not charming shops outside Versailles or the gift shop at Westminster Abbey. I indulge myself now and then with hand-made cards that a few of my friends make and sell and that makes us both very happy.
At different times in my life when I was either financially challenged or feeling very creative I would make my own cards or tear interesting sheets from magazines and use that as my stationary. Having the material that speaks to you and the recipient is a plus but it's really about taking the time and energy to share your thoughts or a quote with someone to let them know you're thinking about and valuing them.
When the words don't come to me, which is happening more and more I hate to say, I go to my collection of quotes or scour the internet for the perfect words. Quotation sites abound on the internet and feel free to check the Quotes page on this website for inspiration and for your use. Words from songs are good too. It seems someone has usually said more beautifully than I ever could, exactly the feeling and thought I want to convey. This is especially true when writing a condolence card. Unless it is someone very close I have not been able to come up with very many thoughtful and creative ways to say, "I'm so sorry. They were such a wonderful person."
At times when you either can't afford or it's not appropriate to send an actual gift a well thought out card will be sufficient and appreciated. The only time I am reticent to do that is with children or adolescents. They probably haven't received too many "just cards" and would be disappointed, if not shocked, if cash, check or gift card didn't fall in their lap.
My favorite new GREEN trick when I'm using an expensive card or a funny one that begs to be shared by many is signing a sticky note and placing it inside and one on the outside with the receiver's name, if it doesn't have to be mailed. The receiver can then re-use it and the card becomes its own little gift to them.
For this trend to "catch BACK on", coming generations must be trained in this art and, yes, it will take some time and encouragement by us. I started with my son when he was old enough to scribble anything on a piece of paper. That constituted his thank you note. He watched me address it, I let him stamp it and we mailed it. Over time it evolved into a generic computer printed message and a drawing of whatever gift he he had received. Once he could actually write and draw well he designed and wrote his own cards and thank yous. They became a big hit with our family and friends and he enjoyed the task. It wasn't a struggle to get him to do it and a habit was engrained that he continues to this day. It's now evolved even further and I receive elaborate computer generated cards from my nephew that blow me away with their creativity.
How ever we choose to grace the people dear to us with a personalized message that is not electronically generated I say, "Write On." But I have to admit I am also happy to receive the animated cards that are emailed to me. It's different but still a pleasure to know someone thought about me and took the time to let me know that.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some texts and emails to send my friends and family, thanking them for their gifts to me of such beautiful and thoughtful, written or drawn (by hand or electronically) cards and letters.