Back in March, 2012, I attended my uncle’s funeral. Because of some things I heard and saw there, I took up letter writing – as in pen, paper, stamp, envelope and writer’s cramp. (Read the details here ... )
Write to whom?
Not counting inmates (I write to anywhere between 3 and 7 people that are incarcerated at any given time), I have written 20 to 25 different people. Many of them only once (especially the international ones (a global stamp costs $1.10)), but some of them numerous times. I haven’t kept an official tally, but it is well over 120 letters.
To date (again, excluding inmates) I have received a total of 5 letters from 3 different people. Mostly I get no response. Occasionally I get an email response. Sometimes I get a, “Hey, I got your letter” in a subsequent encounter. Once I got a book.
The email responses are interesting. Here is a typical reaction:
Hey there Jim,
I received your letter last week, and I just want to say thank you very much for it. It’s a very unusual and special thing to get a hand-written-anything these days, as it takes so much more thought and effort than an email (like this one).
It takes me about twice as much time to hand-write a letter as opposed to typing in Microsoft Word. Sometimes I do type, but mostly I write. The stamp costs me $.46 unless it is international; then it’s $1.10. I use whatever envelope is lying around, so some go out in greeting card envelopes, others in a personal sized one and sometimes the good ole number 9 or 10. I’ve used a 6″X9″ writing pad, composition book, hotel stationary, notebook paper and 8.5″X11″ computer paper. Usually I use whatever ballpoint pen is handy, but have used a fine point flair a few times and once I used a pencil.
I’ve written to former students, my children, siblings, nieces and nephews, old friends, bloggers, people in grief and a couple of letters praising an employee to their boss. The average letter is about 300 words, but I’ve sent notes with as few as 20 words and a longer epistle of over 3000 words (that one was typed).
Why do I spend the time and money?
I think it matters. I think it communicates the value and worth of what is written, but more importantly, I thing it communicates the value and worth of the one to whom it is written. Just the act of writing and sending a letter says, “You are noticed and you are worth this effort.”
Am I disappointed in the response?
I didn’t really expect anything.
Until someone responds, you never know whether or not they even saw it. It is nice to have a response with which to interact. I like letters from my pen pals. But, even without the interaction, it is worth it. They are worth it.
Whether it is some wisdom I want to pass on to a former student, an old friend I remembered fondly or a blogger who wrote something that touched my heart, they are all people who have added value to my life. I think it is important that they know that.
So I write . . .