The colder months can be a very ‘indoorsy’ time, and not being one for Scrabble, gym or daytime TV, I decided, one rainy afternoon last winter, to clean out my office desk. I wasn’t feeling remotely lonely, but when I happened upon my old address book, I was suddenly filled with the urge to write a letter to one or two of the friends whose names were in it. It didn’t matter that I also had their email contacts; it was simply that I wanted to experience again the relaxing feel of a pen scratching over a clean white sheet of paper. What I hadn’t bargained on, however, was what would happen after those letters were posted!
Within the space of a week, I was contacted by three of the four people I wrote to. One friend emailed, another phoned and another actually replied on the back of a postcard! The fourth, I later discovered, was travelling overseas and didn’t pick up their mail until a month later. All three who replied, asked if they could come to stay! So just what is the power of a hand written letter that it elicits such a response?
A letter fulfils many of our deepest wishes: to be loved, acknowledged, and singled out as someone special. But before we’ve even opened it, it has delivered a pleasant surprise and acted as a welcomed gift. Letterboxes these days seldom contain anything but junk mail and the odd bill you still haven’t got around to requesting online. So when that stiff envelope with your name hand written on the front is in your clutches, it’s already touched your heart.
Nothing could be more removed from an inbox ‘ping’ than a letter. Rather than clicking on it and reading the contents in a few seconds, you take your letter to a comfortable chair, perhaps prolonging the anticipation of its contents by brewing a coffee to enjoy while you open and read it. And all the while, you’re marvelling that someone has actually taken the time to write to you.
Letters aren’t something that can be hurried. No one can be in any doubt of that. They are a lengthy, process from the time you find pen and paper, write the words and finally place the stamp on the envelope and journey to a post box. And there is no danger that the news they contain has been copied and pasted! This is a letter to you and you alone – and it has taken time to write. Before you even read it, you are feeling special and loved.
For most of us, typing at the keyboard is so much faster than forming words on paper with a pen. What news a letter contains, therefore, been carefully selected to suit its recipient. It’s an individual, custom made manuscript, and intended for the reader alone. It acknowledges who you and what you will be interested in. By its very nature it signifies a relationship – and isn’t that what we all crave?
When your letter has been devoured, does it disappear into the ‘read’ section of your inbox? No! It remains as a living thing in your house – perhaps sitting on the coffee table or beside your bed where you will inevitably re-read it many times over. You think about it for the rest of the day. You may even remark to friends that you’ve received it!
No wonder people respond warmly and significantly to a letter, where an email, Facebook post or phone call is quickly forgotten. Especially when it comes out of the blue, a hand written letter is a rare and welcome piece of intimacy in a world that is fast forgetting the meaning of the word.
If you are feeling lonely – and even if you’re not – why not put pen to paper now, and see what magic comes of it!