Today I am writing about a topic that is close to my heart, which is personal correspondence, or writing letters. I am writing as an elementary EAL teacher, a mother of two grown children, and a daughter of elderly parents. In February, our students will practice this skill, which Mr. Keller told us about in the newsletter article that was titled Community Post Office. My experience of giving and receiving letters involves three of our core values- balance in life, sense of self, and respect. When I teach a child how to write a letter, I am teaching these values as well.
We all benefit from balance in life. As my New Year’s resolution, and also, to renew my balance in life, this year I will write more letters and postcards (which means less time spent on the computer). I am happy to start by writing letters for our Community Post Office! Also, I will send letters across the ocean to my parents, who love to receive mail and who write postcards and letters to me. Reading letters is satisfying and pleasurable. Furthermore, since a part of my balance in life this year is a resolution to bicycle more, I can write to my parents about exploring Vietnam on bicycle and about meeting lovely Vietnamese people. For many of us, to write, to exercise, and to read for pleasure gives balance to our days, which are often filled with much activity and commotion.
Another benefit of teaching our a child to write and to value letters is to reinforce his or her sense of self. My children, Gabe and Lucy Rae, are in university and we often communicate with them through Facebook and Skype. Although they do not have a lot of extra time, I am proud when they write letters to their grandparents. I think that keeping in touch with their roots is an important part of a strong sense of self. When I write to my children or to my parents, this helps my loved ones feel more connected and not so far away. I also write to reflect on my life, which is a way to reinforce sense of self in an ever-changing global community.
Letter writing is becoming a lost art. We know that time is precious. It is often easier for us to write a quick email than to write a letter with a pencil or pen and paper. When I receive a letter or a card, I feel a little thrill, because someone was very thoughtful and spent the time to compose thoughts, write by hand, and mail the letter. I think that sending a handwritten letter, or writing a note on a card, is a sign of respect. The underlying message is that I care for you and that you are a very worthwhile person in my life. I respect you.
Finally, sending a handwritten letter is a way of honoring the receiver, which we often do at birthdays or holidays, but this is even better when the letter comes for no special occasion. I will always feel gratitude and respect when I receive a letter that was written in manuscript, or “longhand.” I hope to keep in touch through correspondence with my parents, now in their eighties, and with my children, now nineteen and twenty-two, as well as with my close friends. In light of balance in life and sense of self, here is a poem that I wrote on the value of writing in longhand. I hope you enjoy reading this poem, which is titled Kinesthetic.
soon a generation will not know
what they are missing,
who they are missing,
since they will never
learn to love writing
what about love letters,
Do we want to part with
writing words with the graceful
brush of the hand? Its fluid movements
adeptly and gingerly place meanings
into the niches of our minds
in ways that no devices
So, how about this particular connection
‘tween the visual and the kinesthetic?
Not to mention spelling~ a dying skill
of stringing letters into
Moreover- and over again, who knows
the spirit of the handwritten note
that touches a kindred soul?
Furthermore, we muse. Simply
what are we gaining in losing
the art of eating together, or conversing
across the table, or sharing our day
while sitting still?
What have we lost by losing
the art of growing our own food
and raising our own children?
How are we better for not
playing and singing together?
Where has the craft of letter writing gone?
Will we realize that we miss
imparting our stories
and our thoughts?
Yes, we will miss
that meditative act