Tomorrow is December 7, a date most Americans associate with Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, and America’s entry into World War II. We noted last year in this blog that December 7 is also National Letter Writing Day, an event in the United States that dates to an earlier war, the American Civil War. Letter Writing Day is an unusual fun holiday in that it isn’t sponsored by a commercial interest to spark sales of cards or note papers. It just is. Although the origin is not clear regarding who thought of it or how it was thought of, it seems to have been instituted to encourage families to stay in touch with loved ones on the fields of battle by writing letters, particularly as the Christmas holiday was only weeks away, the first time, often the only time, many of the young combatants found themselves not at home.
In today’s connected world we have the availability of email, text messaging, and social media posts that allow us to write to somebody as often as we like, perhaps hundreds of times in the amount of time it took one letter to be delivered in the 1860s. With all that speed and convenience, why do we devote to the archaic act of putting to paper to communicate with others not one, but two blog posts in less than a year (one day less, but less).
On a different site not long ago, again writing about letter writing, Michael wrote, “There is something wonderfully personal about getting a greeting in the mail among all the sales flyers and invitations to open a new credit card… now get up and send your best friend a thank you card for putting up with you.” On the other side of the country, Diem was writing in a notecard, “I rise to the challenge to write you this note today.” When it found its way to Michael’s mailbox among the sales flyers and credit card invitations, even though during the week we had written many texts and emails, as if to prove his words true it was wonderfully welcome.
It is convenient America’s Letter Writing Day falls during the Christmas card writing season. Many people will have their pens at the ready, stamped envelopes waiting to be filled with a holiday greeting. It would easy enough to use those pens to dash off an extra message to accompany the printed verse inside the card. It is perhaps too convenient as many of those people won’t be hand-writing a message to any friends for another year, give or take a day.
Diem was speaking lightheartedly in claiming to “rise to the challenge” for indeed she writes often. Both of us often find ourselves writing cards, notes, and long letters to friends and relatives throughout the year. It’s a process that once begun, is hard to stop. It adds an extra connection to those we love by saying we love them without saying we love them. It also says I was thinking of you, you were on my mind, I just want to say hello – all those things greeting card companies have taken the initiative to say for us, but from our hearts rather than the card rack at the drug store.
As noted, it is a process. It takes time to sit at a desk or table, pull out a card or tablet, write a message, fold it, place it in an envelope, stamp and mail it. It is time our connections, our friends and family, our inner circles deserve and is time they recognize and will likewise respond.
Michael wrapped up his article with, “If you want to really say thank you to a friend for nothing more than just being a friend, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a more delightful way to do so than with a card or a handwritten letter.” As people who have received letters from friends who really had nothing more to say than hello, we can attest to the delight in hearing it in their own handwriting. It’s true. Every letter is a love letter.