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Time to restore a rusting practice

POSTED February 15, 2013 10:04 p.m.

It’s commonplace to be familiar with those particularly disgruntled folks who breathe a sigh of relief at the end of each Valentine’s Day. However, if there is one typical feature of Valentine’s Day that we should take care to continue, it is writing meaningful cards and letters.

I still hold memories of myself enjoying how fresh ink scratched the paper as I wrote all my birthday party thank-you notes nearly seven years ago, stroke by stroke, card by card. I even cherished the act of placing them into crisp white envelopes, sealed with love and gratitude.

However, I can neither recall the last time I sent a handwritten letter to someone or the last time I received one. But my inbox is perpetually filled with hundreds of emails and my phone is saturated with text messages.

To think that a fast-paced world could be rendering the written card or letter obsolete disappoints me. For as much as we may profess to not mind the Times New Roman, 12-point font Happy Birthday email or the terse Happy Holidays text message, I think I speak for a large number of us when I say that deep down those don’t quite suffice.

We want something that connects at a personal level, something that radiates time and thought. We want to see the elegant curves and turns of the person’s handwriting and have a unique token that we can savor for decades in our individual treasure troves. Not to mention, we want to know that the sweet message was penned especially for us as we let it ring in our ears for days on end.

But despite the fact that the vast majority of us truly cherish receiving a written card or letter, we do not seem to jump at the opportunity of initiating the process. Virtually unheard of are the days when folks dashed to the nearest Hallmark store to select a card or piece of stationery they felt best suited a family member, coworker, lover or friend.

Some may argue that time plays a factor. In an age when even young children seem hard-pressed for efficiency, some folks may come to enjoy the slow, methodical approach that handwriting a card or letter requires, but most simply cannot afford to endure that laboriousness.

But lately I have been left wondering whether the decline in handwriting these items stems from a lack of time and energy or simply from a lack of will to write.

After all, some of us can admit to feeling the writing blues dawn before we even begin to compose. We reckon with the typical teenager who arrives home, plops down his backpack, and sulks his way to his room, aggrieved at the thought of having to pull together another tedious essay for English class. Or we reckon with the college student pacing back and forth in her dorm room, frantically trying to formulate ideas for her impending term paper.

I feel that somewhere along the way we, as a society, became conditioned to picture stringing together words in a meaningful manner as an unnecessarily painful task. But we tend to forget the reality that writing can truly be a powerful tool to feel the torrent of passion and ideas surge out of you.

It is a mighty thing to be able to pen glowing words that capture sentiments like nothing else. And it need not be a novel. Putting it in the form of a short and sweet card or letter constitutes a perfectly acceptable starting point for even the newest of novices.

Suffice to say, I am not certain whether the solution to curbing the lost art of writing cards and letters is to simply overcome an irrational fear of writing or to learn to sacrifice a bit of time for the sake of grateful smiles. But at any rate, I feel strongly that we do not have to accept the decaying of this practice as just a sign of the times; we can revive it. And any day of due appreciation is the perfect time to do so.

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