It may seem counter-intuitive, but there seems to be a resurgence in letter-writing as a form of communications—as in “hand-written, stamped-and-mailed” letters! In the current online edition of *YES! Magazine freelance writer Susan Abram details how pen pal clubs are sprouting up across the country, also observing that millennials are purchasing greeting cards in increasing numbers. There’s even an organization of committed letter-writers you can become part of! (See www.letterwriters.org for information and encouragement from the Letter Writers Alliance.) Abram notes that most of the members of these clubs are women, between either 15 and 23 years old, or 45 and 85 years old.
It’s that last detail that attracted my attention and interest—this might be a place where younger and older adults could get to know each other in an encouraging and positive atmosphere. I found myself imagining a group of women (and men) getting together regularly over coffee or a light meal to write letters. To establish and strengthen their relationships with distant friends and each other.
Letter-writing by hand may seem anachronistic—I can quickly type out e-mail missives on a keyboard and the “letter” will be delivered in mere moments. But, as pen pal club members discover, the physical process of putting ink to paper slows down and deepens our thinking about the recipient of each letter. And in those quieter, focused moments these relationships burrow deeper into our brains and spirits.
Let me return to the possible connections of letter-writing to the lives of older adults—both men and women. One of the most satisfying elements of my older adult life is the exchange of heart-felt thoughts with cherished friends. When gaps of time and distance seem great, the appearance of an actual letter in my mailbox re-ignites imagination and affection. The physicality of creating or opening a hand-written letter helps me hearken back to my earlier years, when a personal letter was a cherished artifact of friendship and love.
It doesn’t seem too far-fetched to imagine that this timeless form of communication could take place within a congregation. Time, space, refreshments—and perhaps some stamps—are probably the only necessities. Participants might bring their own writing materials and their own ideas about the recipients of the letters. Letter-writing time could be part of adult daycare programs, regular gatherings of older adults or special events. Specific recipients or needs could be featured each occasion. With shared advice, letter-writers could increase their ability to speak of their faith, offer encouragement, exemplify hope or share wisdom.
Some of this is very personal for me: At one point in our courtship, my wife and I were separated for over a year. She and I exchanged letters during that time, some of them still saved in a special place in our home. The letters remain as tangible proof of our love for each other because they helped dispel our loneliness while we were apart.
With or without others, think about starting or continuing your own letter-writing. This ageless method of communication with friends and loved ones can brighten your day, and help you experience the blessing of being connected to others.
*For the full March 12, 2019 article, see Look Out, Email. Handwritten Letters Are Making a Comeback, at https://www.yesmagazine.org.