A few years ago, I participated in a program called AnySoldier.com, which provided pen-pals for our military. About half the time, we corresponded by email, but depending on their living conditions, many soldiers just didn't have access to the internet. In those cases, we exchanged letters by old-fashioned mail delivery, a high- or low-point in their day, depending on whether or not their names were called to receive a letter from home. I was word processing and printing the letters, using a pen only to sign my name, when my printer broke, forcing me to totally handwrite the letters. The response was incredible! Every soldier who received one told me how much he loved getting a handwritten letter -- this from a generation who had grown up using electronic communication.
Those handwritten letters really struck a chord; they not only took more effort to produce, (I re-copied every letter when I made a mistake) but they were more personal. Because you reveal so much of yourself in your handwriting, you're giving a lot more than information. And that was all the more cherished in a difficult time and place. But we don't need a war to appreciate a letter written by hand.
Handwritten letters have always been part of our society. For thousands of years, it was the only means of communication. Entire histories have been recorded within the pages of letters! During times of war, letters were crucial for morale. Love letters, saved and tied with ribbons, are legendary. I don't want to be part of the generation who dropped the ball, and allowed this timeless art to slip away.
While many schools still teach cursive handwriting, many do not. And that's where we come in. To begin, we need to teach by example. If our kids never see us writing anything beyond a grocery list, then penmanship - and letter writing - will be lost.
So sit down on a quiet afternoon with your children and go beyond the printed holiday card. Pen an actual letter to a friend. Then encourage your kids to do the same. They will love the idea of a pen-pal, and it might just spark the next generation to carry on this lovely tradition.
About SJ Wilson
SJ Wilson has been writing novels for many years, including the recently published, The Soul of Fenway. She loves spending time with her family, especially at the beach. Her hobbies include genealogy, photography, American history, and baseball.