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Is letter writing a lost art?

Bonnie Simmerman • Yesterday at 12:00 AM

Letter writing seems to be a thing of the past. With all of the electronic devices readily available to use for communication, personal handwritten letters are almost a thing of the past. However, I think we can learn much about our history and the people who have written to us if we take a look at the letters they wrote.

The first year that my husband and I were dating, we lived about 175 miles apart. We corresponded regularly and I looked forward to watching for the mailman each day. I received one or two letters a week, and he did the same. I have preserved these letters in a small cedar chest. It is very interesting to read about what took up our time back then. We told of all our activities, as well as giving an update on the weather. That was the year that it snowed every Wednesday in March, so we had much to write about. Our grandchildren would probably laugh if they read them.

For most of my married life, I have lived 300 miles away from my parents. Letter writing was our way of keeping in touch. My mother was a great letter writer. I usually got a newsy letter about every week. She was very thrifty with her paper. She wrote from one edge to the other with never a margin on either side. Even though these were difficult to read as she aged, I treasured hearing from my mom and dad and was able to keep up with all that was going on in their lives. I especially kept one of her letters, which she wrote on Mother’s Day. That same year she wrote my four siblings a similar letter which I am sure they treasured.

Several weeks ago, when President George H.W. Bush died, I heard that he wrote many letters — to grandchildren, children, co-workers, foreign leaders and other dignitaries. The ones who spoke about his letters indicated that they meant so much to them. President’s letters are often preserved in museums and I am sure the people who received a personal handwritten letter from him saved it and count it very special. I also heard recently that North Korean president Kim Jung Un has written several letters to President Trump to get to know him better. We do get to know people better from their letters.

I heard an interesting story on the news about a teacher who wanted her students to correspond with some senior citizens at a nursing home. The problem was the students could not write in cursive handwriting since that had been eliminated from the curriculum. The teacher decided it was worth teaching them cursive writing in order for them to read what the seniors wrote to them. This turned out to be a win-win situation. Not only did the students learn a new skill that would be helpful to them in many ways, they also greatly enjoyed reading the letters from the seniors and building good relationships with them. I am sure the seniors enjoyed their letters, as well.

After a party my husband and I had for some of his high school classmates, one of those who attended sent us a beautifully written letter of thanks. Not only was the cursive writing perfectly done, the wording and the message was beautiful. It reminded me of how many of the younger generation have lost the ability to communicate in that way. Not only are many of their writing skills lacking, they often forget to say thank you.

Among some family heirlooms, I discovered a 15-page typed letter sent from a great aunt who had traveled across the United States and back. She wrote graphic details of every place she and her husband had visited in 1915. She gave as much information as a travel guide book would include; after reading the letter, you felt as if you had been on the trip as well.

Whether a love letter from your beau, a newsletter from your mom, a personal letter from the president of the United States, a thank you letter, or one from a senior citizen or third-grader — all reveal much about the person who wrote it.

One other letter written long ago comes to mind. The Apostle Paul was an outstanding letter writer. You might want to reread his letters. They show much about the person who wrote them and the one he wrote about.

Bonnie Simmerman of Jonesborough can be reached at [email protected]

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