By Michael Scully
In our current world, communication occurs in varied ways. Talking face to face never gets old, nor does a phone call. But the primary means of person-to-person communication these days is via texting and social media. While these can be effective and meaningful, they somehow tend to lack the personal touch of a cherished bygone method: the written letter.
While growing up and through my college and early adult years, exchanging letters (snail mail) was the primary way of keeping in touch with my family and friends. While things like birthday, thank you and sympathy cards remain somewhat of a mainstay for postal delivery, along with wedding invitations and such, most mail now seems to consist of ads and solicitations, or bills for those of us who don't pay online. And there remain some like myself who still subscribe to a few magazines.
Now for some years, I've been meaning to pull out and review some boxes of letters that I've saved. And as a recent retiree, I'm finally finding some extra time to tend to such back burner projects. So I've gotten the boxes out and started looking through the letters, fully expecting that I'd look over them one last time, smile appreciatively, and finally dispose of them.
But while going through this process, a surprising thing happened. In reading through these beautiful, thoughtful words of support, love and friendship that inspired and supported me when I first received them many years ago, I was again so deeply moved and reinforced that I simply cannot get rid of them! Once again I feel the deep love and guidance of my parents as I re-read the letters they sent me while I was away at college and during the two years I spent in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa.
I've rediscovered the special bonds that I share with my sisters in their many heartfelt letters of love and support, and plenty of humor as well! I've appreciated anew the kindness and camaraderie that I shared with friends and beloved mentors in their words of inspiration and helpful insights. And in reviewing letter after letter, I feel deeply grateful, enriched and renewed.
Those of a certain age will even remember having pen pals. I had the extreme pleasure of exchanging letters for some time with my pen pal, a lovely retired nun named Sister Ann. Sure, people can share similar niceties through emails, Facebook and other forms of social media. But there's something about a handwritten letter that really reflects the essence of the person who took the time to put pen to paper which can't be duplicated by something like a tweet. Undoubtedly, a person's personality comes through in their writing style that makes a handwritten note or letter extra special.
Additionally, the age of letter writing is indicative of a time when the world seemed less complicated and people had more time to spend together, whether in person or by keeping in touch with letters. The current age of instant information, people living on cell phones, online shopping, etc. has altered our society in many ways, some good and some not so good. I am not suggesting that we try to turn the clock back. This is simply a fond remembrance of what seemed like a simpler, less hectic time in our country and world.
So instead of throwing my old letters out, I am consolidating them to take up less space. But what an exhilarating, rewarding experience it's been to relive the moments of reading for the very first time the words of someone in my life who reached out to share their world with me! Thanks, peace and love to all who ever dropped me a line, and keep those cards and letters coming!
Michael Scully was exhilarated by reading old letters.