Not long ago, I posted a short piece on Facebook expressing appreciation for an encouraging card that had been signed and sent to me by the ladies of a church in Hueytown AL. On the post, Sue Beth Haub, a friend from Indiana, commented, “There’s nothing like HANDWRITTEN, ENCOURAGING THOUGHTS from friends that you love.”

Thank-you notes of any kind are wonderful, of course, especially in these busy days when so few of us take the time to write them. But there is something special about AN ACTUAL CARD THAT COMES IN THE MAIL. Emails and text messages are fine, in their place, but the card that appears in your physical mailbox says “I care” in a way that digital communications do not. For one thing, the card and the postage cost more money, and that sacrifice conveys a deeper level of gratitude.

But if physical cards are special, HANDWRITTEN CARDS are even more so. My handwriting is deteriorating so steadily, I can hardly read it myself, and so I hesitate to saddle anyone with the challenge of deciphering my scrawl. But there’s no denying that the presence of words written by the actual hand of the sender gives the recipient a more tangible gift. And again, the sacrifice is no small part of what makes it meaningful. The handwritten note says, “I could have dashed off a quick email to you, but I took the time to write this out myself because you are special to me.”

If you think there’s no difference between handwritten words and any other kind, ask yourself why people treasure the “autographs” of celebrities. Wouldn’t a celebrity’s name spelled out in printer’s type be just as valuable? And even if it was that person’s signature, wouldn’t a mass-reproduced copy of the signature be just as good? Or the celebrity’s name “signed” by an assistant who worked for them? No, it’s the knowledge that the person himself or herself actually wrote those words with their own hand (their hand actually touched that piece of paper) is what makes it unique.

There was a day (it seems very long ago) when letter writing was an art. People devoted significant time to writing letters, and the results were often powerful. For example, I treasure my thick, three-volume compendium of the letters that C. S. Lewis wrote over his lifetime. Almost all of Lewis’s correspondence was handwritten, and it was remarkably thoughtful. I wonder, even in the case of a C. S. Lewis, how much more superficial that correspondence would have been had it been done by email or by texting or (perish the thought) by tweeting. The fact that handwriting is A SLOWER PROCESS has at least this advantage: it forces us to ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT WHAT WE ARE WRITING.

So, my friend, write a note to somebody once in a while. Put it in your own handwriting. Those who receive these notes will treasure them. They will be encouraged by your thoughtfully crafted words, and I expect they may go so far as to LOVE YOU FOR YOUR EFFORT ON THEIR BEHALF.

Gary Henry — WordPoints

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