In the not so distant past, men would rise when a woman walked into a room and people would actually write handwritten letters, notes and celebratory greetings. Perhaps our “Stay-at-Home” situation can provide an opportunity to renew the practice of written communication as a friendly nod to civility and the past.
In an age of computers, cell phones and other technological advancements that put human contact on blast and speed dial, it might be nice to harken back to some of the early forms of connection that slow the pace and limit the feeling of being under the glare of a spotlight with each utterance. We might want to create some “social distancing” that creates enough space for connection that feels more intimate and thoughtful. I recall my mother’s use of a “tablet” to write letters. Back then, a tablet was a small writing pad, not a small portable computer; and the memory is so distant that you will likely not find it defined among the slew of references to the computer version in your Google search. If you still have a dictionary, you can go even further back and recall the meaning that describes it as a “flat slab of stone, usually inscribed.” Think how special a message becomes through the artful use of words and the lasting quality of inscribing them. I remember that my mother wrote births and deaths in the family Bible as though inscribed for future generations to take notice. Well, without going too far back, let’s consider how the current “Stay-at-Home” reality creates an ever increasing array of options for how to connect to each other; and perhaps consider dusting off a few practices from a seemingly bygone era.
First up, let’s consider the hand written letter. This form of connection literally places power in your hands to communicate from your heart and mind to another’s heart and mind using well-chosen words. Wow! The mere thought of this kindles an even deeper appreciation for the pleasure that can be derived from both writing and receiving such a communication. Love letters are only one type of letter; and there is no limit to the ways that this form of human connection can serve. Think of letters from home to a serviceman capturing the details of daily life back at home; or the chronicling of family history recorded between those separated by miles or generations.
Today, as we “shelter in place,” we might want to reach out to others using the simple “thinking of you” message. By letting them know you are thinking of them, you give a gift of caring that exceeds a simple post or caption to a photo. Greeting cards and notes of personal thanks are lasting reminders of special moments of remembrance. The all too familiar sympathy card acknowledges heartfelt sorrow in expressions of comfort. We can make cards even more precious by designing them ourselves or simply relying on our careful selection of just the right sentiment and message. Our ally in using such means to communicate is the United States Postal Service (USPS) that has been unwavering in our current COVID 19 crisis. The postal workers have continued to serve our needs and help us to stay connected and conscientious about keeping up with bill payment and other important matters. I have read that some leaders in the United States Senate are urging funding support for this beleaguered system.
The humble “To Do List” is another important form of written expression that reminds us about what is important. Venturing out to the store or mounting a campaign to make home improvements without a list, may amount to “folly” if your memory fails. Journal writing can be a “go-to” method to soothe or heal a lonely heart or document an emotional struggle. Together, the things we write can give us the freedom to claim our experience of life for ourselves or others. I came across these memorable words from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the occasion of his “First act after receiving the oath of office on January 20, 1953:
“…as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the executive branch of government join me in beseeching…our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.
Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all people regardless of station, race, or calling.
May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country…”
Write now, so that your words and thoughts may reverberate into a hopeful future just as these words have done. The moments are fleeting and you may fail to recall them in an instant or an Instagram post. Write on!!!