Sometimes I’m convinced Matthew Arnold said it best when he spoke about society. Lately I’ve become frustrated with “this strange disease of modern life, with its sick hurry, its divided aims.” Everything is irrevocably impersonal today. If people wish to show someone affection, they do so by sending them an email or a text message. Rarely ever do we take time out of our hectic schedules to write someone a letter or send them a thank you note.
I specifically remember one horrible Friday afternoon. School had drained me intellectually and emotionally, softball practice had proved ridiculously grueling, and I blanked out and bombed an Algebra 2 exam. I remember thinking, “This day could not possibly get any worse,” which is exactly when -right on cue- my car wouldn’t start. I phoned home frantically. I guess my mother could hear the desperation in my voice. Of course she comforted me, like mothers usually do extremely well. Eventually, my dad appeared with jumper cables in hand and helped me start my unpredictable vehicle.
After crying out all of my frustration during the drive home, I was feeling marginally better. When I finally made it to my bedroom, I found a letter on my bed. It had been written in beautifully shaped cursive. I recognized the handwriting immediately; the letter was from my cousin April. I began to read. She expressed all of her hopes, wishes, anxieties, and fears. She wrote about her mother’s newest husband or “husband number four,” as she liked to call him. She also wrote about the good times we had shared when we were small children. Without even knowing it, April had completely changed my attitude. As I read her letter, I felt as though she was there with me, encouraging me and telling me that everything would be okay, regardless of my current situation.
A letter embodies a vintage, personal twist on the typical spoken or emailed expression. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to have specific details. It doesn’t have to be written beautifully. It doesn’t even have to have complete sentences or correct grammar. It simply needs to exist in order to be respected and admired. I appreciate text messages, phone calls, and emails from my friends. However, none of those captivate me quite as much as a simple letter from the heart. Letters are time consuming. They require at least a minimal amount of energy and effort. However, when a person does decide to write someone else a letter manually, she pours herself into what she’s writing. People are more apt to appreciate a gesture if it comes from someone’s heart.
When something is typed instead of written, the romantic feel is drained away. Instead of a pen flowing over the paper, you let your fingers do the talking. It’s efficient, yes, quicker, no doubt, and much more convenient. But I suppose the charms of technology can also be categorized as its downfall. An abundance of eloquence is lost to convenience and speed. I’d much rather write people letters when they’ve lost something, had a bad day, or simply need a subtle encouragement. Society as a whole has cheated itself out of beauty through the availability of many modern products. I believe in taking the time necessary to develop a small piece of myself that will be meaningful to someone else. I believe in the solace of written words.
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