In my lifetime, I’ve seen many new technologies that were meant to save us time. I remember how awesome it was to watch my mom heat up a meal in our new microwave oven. I remember saving my money so I could get rid of my slide rule and buy my first calculator. I’ve been an eyewitness to computers, smart phones, and the explosion of the internet. All of these innovations have made it faster and easier to get through our daily routine.
But these time-saving technologies come with a price tag. We always seem to be in a hurry. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pointing fingers. Goodness knows I’m as guilty as the next guy. But stop and think about it. As a generation, we consume a steady diet of 30-second sound bites and short, snappy posts on social media. We don’t have time for anything more. If we can’t compress what we have to say into 140 characters, why bother?
This kind of hurry-up mentality has caused us to lose something important along the way. It may sound strange, but we’ve lost the art of letter writing. And believe it or not, that’s a big deal.
Like us, earlier generations longed to communicate. Years ago, you see, writing letters was the only practical way of sending a message from person to person. But the pace of life was slower then. Writing a letter wasn’t done in a rush. It took time. It was slow and methodical, sometimes tedious. And unlike twitter or Facebook, a letter was usually written with one specific reader in mind. This freed up the writer to be honest and vulnerable. We don’t see the kind of shallowness that’s so common on social media today. There was a bond of trust, meaning that the writer was willing to share real hurts, real struggles, real hopes and dreams. If you’re lucky enough to lay your hands on a whole series of letters, you actually feel like a part of the conversation.
In all honesty, I’ve never really thought much about letter writing. I’m not much of a writer myself. But not long ago, as I went through my dad’s belongings, I discovered a box filled with old family letters. As I read through them, I found myself drawn into their lives and getting to know them more deeply. Hearing them tell their stories in their own words was truly eye opening for me. Here, I realized, was a treasure of the rarest kind.
Join me in my next blog as I unpack some of these letters.