We live in a fast-paced world where everything is tightly scheduled and there is no room for deviation. Children no longer go outside to play after school or on the weekend. They are too busy being chauffeured to their various sports activities, music lessons, and the tutoring that will hopefully get them into a better university after graduation. Even pre-schoolers have scheduled “play dates”. No one sits on their front porch anymore, waving to their neighbors as they walk by, inviting them to stop and chat over a cold drink. Most don’t even know their neighbors’ names. Children no longer play kick-the-can in the growing darkness until their mothers holler out the back door that it’s time to come in. Dad’s in one room reviewing departmental reports while mom is in another preparing for her big morning presentation in front of the Board. Meanwhile, if by chance the children are actually done with their homework, they are on their computers either perusing their social media accounts or deep into a multi-player video game, stopping only long enough to answer a text from their friend who probably lives right next door or across the street. None of them, parents included, can even sit down for a family meal together without their cell phones right there within easy reach. Ask them an hour later what they had for dinner and I’d wager a bet most of them couldn’t tell you. Did they even taste it? We live in a world of texts written in indecipherable shorthand, tweets of 140 characters or less, and emojis.
While I would say I’m better than most, I am guilty of taking phone calls, reading emails, and answering texts during a meal…unless in public or at dinner with friends. Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often. Nonetheless, I do feel the loss of connection with other people. I do often choose email or texting over phone calls. When was the last time you received or wrote a letter? I’m talking about a traditional letter, the kind that comes in an envelope delivered to your box by the US Postal Service along with your bills, magazines, and advertising flyers.
I have one friend, Virginia, who writes me regular letters. She always encloses copies of interesting articles, short stories, and poetry that she’s read. She’s a marvelous poet who lives back in New York State, and belonged to my writers’ group there for years. I can’t tell you how much I love seeing that fat envelope in our mailbox. Sometimes it’s hand-written, sometimes typed, but it always feels like she’s right there with me as I read it. I can even hear her voice. We learned early on that we share a birthday. This year she will turn 90. (I will not.) How fast the years go by.
I know that it won’t be too many more years, if even that long, before the letters stop coming. It makes me sad. I’ve attempted writing to other old friends now far away and they don’t respond. I guess they’re too busy to take the time to do more than quick well-wishes in a store-bought birthday or Christmas card, and some not even that. For a while I wrote long letters to everyone in my old writers’ group but I’ve fallen into the habit of emailing with two and only writing to Virginia. Sad thing is, the fourth woman does not have email so I tend to just say, “Pass this on”, when I email one of them. I will make an effort to write them more “real letters” from now on. And I will continue to try and reconnect with others in this manner. I don’t want to get to the day where I can never again look forward to a letter in my mailbox.
If you don’t already, do me a favor and reconnect with someone through pen and paper. Let’s not allow this wonderful old tradition of letter-writing to come to an end. Without letters preserved, what will future generations have to look back and study when they talk about us?