Today it’s easy to awe a fellow human. All you need to do is write a short, handwritten note and send it through the mail. But its real power to awe may not be what you think.
Yes, handwritten notes, these ancient evergreens of communication, look even more majestic in the snowfall of texts and emails that blanket us.
Yes, a hand-addressed envelope seems to glisten amidst the slurry of machine addressed stuff we get in the mail, like gold in a prospector’s pan.
But the true power of a handwritten note comes from something else, I think. For me it comes, like the literal passing of a torch, from the same piece of paper held by one and then the other, written on, then read.
Your words are not displayed in perfect Calibri, Palatino, or a default text chosen by a programmer, but are imperfectly scribed in the "font of you".
Passing through no Internet Service Provider, screened by no filter, scanned by no algorithm, a handwritten card is as elemental as written communication between two humans can be.
Because handwritten cards have been sent out to pasture, retired, relegated to those communications of no commercial importance, and of no particular urgency, they do something else. They are used for messages of gratitude, of care and of love. They are not of this moment but of this lifetime.
We will print and save few of our emails, but many of the handwritten cards will be put away for safekeeping. Those letters from camp, letters from our grandparents, advice from mom and dad, passions of a lover, tears of a friend, are the fabric of life.
Their very encumbrances can be blessings in disguise. Handcrafting a note forces us to slow and compose in our head before we put ink on paper. And in the slowing we can sometimes find ourselves. A handwritten note can do as much for the sender as the receiver.
And all this is before you conspire with your envelope to deliver another surprise--tickets, a photo, a hotel key card, the pearl of wisdom or humor released from our fortune cookie, a beer coaster, a few rose pedals. Such stowaways can become breathaways.
Some of us, I know, bemoan our handwriting, but to me writing by hand is like Willie Nelson’s singing. Fans love him not for his perfect voice, but for how his music makes us feel, and that familiar imperfection that is uniquely his.
Our loved ones and friends will not grade our handwriting, but will they even recognize our handwriting when they see it? Only if we give them the chance, and send them examples. To recognize a dear one’s handwriting is one of the pleasures in life we should not give up, not when the pleasure is so high and the cost, well, isn’t even a cost.
So write to your favorite people, write to your loved ones. Handwritten cards have also been released from the need to be long. No one needs them to be long, only to be there, like those evergreens, welcoming us home.