September 1st is World Letter Writing Day—established more than a decade after the world switched to using thumbs on tiny touchscreens to correspond in a new language called texting. On the WLWD website, the Day’s founder, Richard Simpkin of Australia, shares his enthusiasm for handwritten correspondence. He is available to conduct workshops. For those of us who have been writing letters that go through a postal system for many decades, the need for a workshop might be cause for a day of mourning. Nevertheless, the prospect of rekindling a love of letter writing is cause for an anticipatory celebration.
If you were unable to celebrate this past holiday, it’s not too late. Every day is a great day for sending or receiving personal correspondence that is physical: written with a ball-point, felt-tip, gel, fountain, or calligraphy pen, placed in a handwritten envelope, postage stamp affixed, and post-office delivered. We share more of ourselves in small ways when we send a letter. For personal correspondence, we can choose everything from the paper and envelope to the writing implement, ink color, and way of writing. We can choose to write a thousand words or just enough to say “I care about you.”
I’ve corresponded with two adults who like to add stickers to their letters or postcards when they have finished writing. Another was creative in ways other than composing sentences, so she would find images and text from other sources that she cut out and pasted on a piece of paper. Then she would add thoughts, scattered amidst the collage. One time, that paper was a sheet of newspaper, randomly folded to fit in a business envelope. She was thinking of me and sharing that thought with a unique and delightful authenticity of expression. You don’t have to be a writer to write a letter.
If we never sent any handwritten correspondence other than thank-you notes, the world would still be a much better place. There is a level of sincerity conveyed by taking the time to jot a thank-you note—sincerity that simply cannot be matched with a text message, even one that ends with a kissing face emoji. Sometimes, all we want to say is “Thank you for being my friend.” It’s worth sharing that feeling with a note that they can place in a favorite spot and see each time they pass by.
All it takes is a few thoughtful words, captured on paper, and a postage stamp to uniquely express ourselves in a way that shows someone we care.