The Value of a Handwritten Letter

Dear Fellow Journalers,

This month’s journal. Is about journaling and writing. letters. Believe it or not, the. two are linked. Several years ago, I wrote about. un-sent letters (2017), the letters that were  handwritten but never delivered. The topic never really left me. Two weeks ago, I watched a fascinating interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin, a historian I greatly admire. She was speaking about her books and the research she conducted. She happened to mention letters written back and forth from soldiers to their families during the Civil War.

I began to wonder, if 1) did anyone write letters anymore and 2)  if anyone was saving. them. This virus is bound to be cured one day and what will our future selves look back on?

Writing to someone takes time. You have to find paper, a pen, an envelope and buy a postage stamp. Oh, and finally go to the post office. Something very important happens even before your letter gets opened. Your recipient reaches the undeniable fact, that you care about them, that they are important to you.

Letters can be touched. E-mails can. he read, saved or deleted. A letter can be unopened time and again and either displayed or put in a drawer.

Taking the time to write a letter is an example of mindfulness. You don’t have to worry about your internet slowing down, you can just write in the present.

Now, not all letters are “peaches  and cream”. Like the letters I mentioned earlier, if written during this viirus, you can bring emotional healing to both your recipient and yourself. In journaling, when we write about our feelings, we write slowly and methodically -taking one problem at a time.

Think about this: you write a letter to your sister who’s in a different state. You tell her about the .death of a neighbour or someone in your town. You write about food prices or shortages (I couldn’t find rice or anything pork for months!). You discover, when you read her letters to you, that your fears are her fears. Maybe she’s found an old recipe that your Mom used to make a family favorite during the Depression.

Writing letters may be a lost art, but I think we journalers are bringing it back one letter at a time.

~Sallie

Letter to my future self

Dear Fellow Journalers,

One of the projects New protestants participate in at Holy Family Retreat House is to write a letter to their future selves about their experiences on retreat and encourage themselves to attend the following year.They write the letter, address it and the staff mail the letters on the appropriate date. This practice began about 10 years ago and as far as I can tell it really has helped the retreatants on their spiritual journey.

So why write a letter to your future self? What would you say?

The following are some encouraging words from some famous people on what to write:

https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/11-pieces-of-the-best-advice-that-celebrities-would-give-their-younger-selves

 

~Sallie

 

 

Sharing pieces of our hearts

Dear Fellow Journalers,

I have always been fascinated by letters. Letters speak to me and I suspect to you also. More than a quick note, they often convey our deepest emotions and are treasured both for the content and the writer. Many letters are from loved ones now gone and speak of events in our lives that we forget. I have kept letters from my family, former co-workers, students, friends. Re-reading those letters keep me ever appreciative of those folks who were in my life when I needed them the most.

Lately there seem to be a lot of books with the letter theme. Some of my favorites are:

  • “Conagher”  by Louis L`Amour
  • “The Letter” by Kay Cordell
  • “The Letter” by Katherine Hughes
  • “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
  • “One Lavender Ribbon” by Heather Burch
  • “Ribbon of Love” by Donna R. Causes
  • “Against Wind and Tide” by Anne Moore Lindbergh

Letters, of course, have been written by many people for many different reasons. Some of the more poignant of them are the ones written by our military men and women. Often written during war-time they bring to light the hardships and also the dreams of ordinary men and women caught up in horrific circumstances yet always yearning for their home and family. In an article entitled “Tribute to Veterans:Readers share War Letters“, author Andrew Carroll (November 2014), wrote: “Some of the letters are notable for how they were written as much as for what they said – like one composed on toilet paper by a soldier fighting in Vietnam.”

Carroll had started a project in 1998 to collect as many veterans’ letters as possible. In 2014 there were over 10,000 letters and he had started writing a book called “War Letters” and urged that the war letters be preserved at the Center for American War Letters. This center is at Chapman University in California. Here are some excerpts:

Written on May 2, 1865, by a man named Garret Clawson, captured the moment when Union troops learned that the Civil War was over. “The news came here this morning that the rebs had agreed to the terms and peace was made,” he wrote. “The rebel soldiers is acoming through here ever day on thare way home. They say that war is ended and they are glad of it. The rebs soldiers and our soldiers is a walking and talking and cutting up together as if they had always been friends.”

Last letters home
The rarest type of letters collected by Carroll are those from soldiers who know they are about to die. Some were dictated from hospital beds or dashed off in haste by combatants who had been severely wounded and doubted they would survive.

But one letter received by Carroll after the Bulletin article appeared depicted an even more rare moment — a Confederate soldier facing execution in the Civil War.
The letter was written by a Kentucky man named Lindsey Buckner, who was selected to be shot in retaliation for the death of a Union soldier killed by Confederate guerrillas in his home state. “My dear sister,” Buckner wrote in late October 1864, “I am under sentence of death and for what, I do not know. … It is a hard thing to be chained and shot in this way; and if it was not for the hope I have of meeting you all in Heaven, I would be miserable indeed.”

Some of the letters are notable for how they were written as much as for what they said — like one composed on toilet paper by a soldier fighting in Vietnam.

 

A dad writes his girls:  While some of the letters documented long-ago wars, others felt as immediate as yesterday, and as poignant as recent headlines.

After receiving word that he would be deployed to Iraq, U.S. Army Capt. Zoltan Krompecher sat down and composed the following letter to his two young daughters. “Dear Leah and Annie,” Krompecher began:

 

My precious little girls. I write this letter to you because soon I will leave for Iraq. Your mommy and I just tucked you both into bed, read your books, and said our prayers together.

I’ve been watching the news and am worried that there could be the off-chance that I might never get to watch you board the school bus for the first time, place a Band Aid on a scraped knee, or walk you down the aisle of your wedding. …

One night during this past December, I read you girls The Snowy Day before bedtime. The next morning revealed three inches of fresh powder. That morning you greeted me with the plea, “Daddy, can we go outside and play like Peter did in his book?” Sadly, I replied that I had to get to work but maybe we could build a snowman after I returned home. Unfortunately, it was so dark by the time I got back from work that there was no time for snowmen.

April has arrived, and I have put the sled away until next year. Winter is over, and I leave for Iraq next month. … All I can hope for is that it will snow just one more time.

Love, Your Daddy.

Unlike so many stories Carroll has read in letters over the years, this one had a happy ending. Krompecher returned to his family and donated his letters to Carroll after reading of his project in the Bulletin. “Zoltan’s letter is proof that troops today are writing letters as eloquent and profound as those that were penned decades and even centuries ago,” Carroll said.

 

 

Do you write letters or e-mails?

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Let me ask you a question. Do people still write letters? While you’re scratching your head, allow me to remind you that letters involve paper and pens, envelopes and stamps and e-mail is just a computer. I know I’m being ridiculous but I saw a poll the other day that asked this question. The consensus was that people “of a certain age” easily wrote letters and  the younger generation liked email or Twitter. Both sides of this question have valid points. Here are some of the polled answers:

“Letters are a thing of the past”

“E-mails are faster and easier”

“You can send emails to friends and family around the world at the same time”

“Less paper in my mailbox”

“For a personal touch, nothing beats getting something in the postal mail”

“If a thank you is called for, a hand-written note shows good manners, professionalism, and thoughtless.”

“I have a lot of beautiful stationery and want to use it”

“If you don’t need a response right away, I write a letter”

So, my question remains, do you write letters?

 

~Sallie

The Letter

Dear Fellow Journalers,

When I was much younger, if I wanted to share good news with someone I wrote a letter. To write a letter you needed nice stationery, a pen and a postage stamp. Now the preferred method of communication is via email, tweet, face-book message, Skype, and other methods I’ve never heard of.

The age-old problems remain however- how to start your message, how to communicate exactly what you want to convey and how to end  your message. Our teachers always used to say “Remember the 5 W’s” (who. what, when, where and why) and then apply them in the first paragraph.  For instance, can you finish the following:

Dear Grandma,

Thank you so much for my new book ___. It was very nice of you to think of me. I really liked the part about _____. We had a nice time at my party.———–

See what I mean? The end of the letter is also difficult. The traditional “Love” is over-used and Sincerely, Very Truly Yours sound so antiquated.

All those letters/notes/postcards almost always were received by the person we sent them to but sometimes you heard about the letter that “got lost in the mail.” All that “work” and your recipient never got the message! All this brings me to the theme of this month’s journal topic – the Unsent Letter. This letter is written but never intends to see the light of day. Next week we’ll explore this topic in depth.

~Sallie

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