The Importance of Handwritten Notes
Last weekend, I cleaned out our filing cabinets. For the first time in eighteen years of marriage, I thoroughly purged our many files. I spent about four hours going through loads of paper and ended up with more than a laundry basket full of paper to throw away. I found receipts from every pregnancy, doctor visits for babies, paperwork for every vehicle purchased, and invitations to our wedding. It’s fun to see it all, and it is fun to throw most of it away.
But it was also a great reminder of a tradition we need to preserve our children.
You see, tucked in between the items to discard were some treasures. No, they can’t be sold and won’t bring any money, but their worth is priceless. I found letter after letter written by family members, loved ones, and friends. Some of those people are no longer on this earth.
Some of those treasures include the following:
- Birthday and anniversary cards from our grandparents, all of whom are now in heaven. My wife and I remarked in recent years how the mailed birthday cards have decreased. My grandmother always sent us a $50 Red Lobster gift card on special occasions, along with a hand-written note.
- Long, hand-written letters of encouragement, thanks, and sometimes exhortation from my mother.
- Letters to our children from my great-aunt, who never had children of her own but took great interest in ours.
- Notes from church members, who occasionally took time to express their love, assure us of their prayers, or send a gift.
- The only letter I ever received from my father. I was struggling over a life-decision in college, and he mailed me a very short note that read, “I am praying for you. Love, Dad.”
- Love-letters between my wife and I from our days of courtship, which is now two decades ago.
- Simple notes and pictures that our children have written us during the years for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and Father and Mother’s Days. Though often misspelled, they are treasures, like the one I have taped on my wall that says, “DIER DADDEY; I HOP YUW HAVE A GUD HAPPPEYE BERTH DAYA. I LUV YUW DADDEY.”
Because of our digital age, we live in a day when we are losing the craft of writing letters. People text and email habitually. And, there is nothing wrong with those inventions. They make life simpler in some ways, and they are convenient when I need to send a quick word.
However, texting and emailing does not adequately replace the personal note or letter—and they don’t leave treasures behind for us or our children.
I enjoy reading biographies. One of the main ways we learn about historical figures is from their correspondence: the letters they sent and received. We read the letters and journals of great political statesmen like George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, of seasoned missionaries and pastors like Hudson Taylor, Mary Slessor, and George Mueller, and of outstanding thinkers and achievers like C. S. Lewis, Benjamin Franklin, and Elisabeth Elliot. If Martin Luther King, Jr., had lived in our day, I guess his famous book would be titled Texts and Emails from Birmingham Jail.
Donald Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that most of his students say that, other than for special occasions, they have never in their life received a personal hand-written letter. Whitney says that a hand-written letter is “the height of personal touch today. It has a personal touch to it that an email doesn’t.”
An email from your mother and from your bank, printed out on your printer, look the same. There is nothing personal about the white paper and black ink.
However, a card that was picked out to send just to you, or a piece of someone’s personal stationary with a note that is hand-written or typed and then signed by the sender carries personality with it. It’s a touch of care, concern, and love from the sender, in a way that can never be accomplished electronically.
Let’s get back to writing letters and notes on cards. And let’s keep the ones we receive so our children will someday have memories they will treasure. Let’s teach our children the value of hand-writing a birthday greeting, thank-you note, or a congratulatory expression, so that they can bless the lives of others.
I still have some letters and envelopes sent to me by loved ones years ago. When I pick them up, I remember that their hands touched that paper, wrote on it, and signed it with their pen. For the ones now in heaven, I (of course) can’t see them. But I can still feel loved by their handwritten notes sent years ago.
Today would be a good day for you to write a handwritten letter to your child. He or she will treasure it one day.
By: Dr. Rhett Wilson pastors The Spring Church in Laurens, SC, teaches Bible as an Adjunct Professor of Christianity at Anderson University, and enjoys freelance writing. His blog, Faith, Family, and Freedom can be accessed at www.rhettwilson.blogspot.com.
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