With the instant communication of texts, emails, posts and chats, handwritten letters have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and have all but become extinct. Keyboards are thrust in front of children at younger and younger ages. While my high school typing teacher might claim ultimate victory, my grade school teachers would be aghast at the fact that today’s kids can’t read or write cursive anymore. But something far more important suffered from the loss of letter writing; we’ve given up an important communication tool.
Letters have an important quality modern instant communication lacks. Letters take time. They take time for us to write and they take time for us to read. Letters force you to think and speak slowly as you choose your words and transfer them onto the page. Letters soak into your heart as you read them.
When parents complain that their children don’t stay around long enough to listen or shut down in conversation, I ask, “Have you considered writing them a letter?” There is something personal about a hand written letter that email can’t reproduce. Letters can be reread again and again and they can’t be accidentally deleted with one keystroke. Nor can you click out a quick, terse response without thinking. Here is the best part, your children can’t argue with you or interrupt your explanation or encouragement written in a letter; the words, firmly planted, just stare them back in the face.
When my firstborn twins turned one, I got an idea to write them letters to be opened when they became teenagers. On their thirteenth birthday, we opened the letters I wrote a dozen years earlier. Then each year afterward, I gave them another letter. In those letters, I communicated my love for them, my desire for them to love Jesus with all their hearts, and shared with them the gospel, calling them to give their lives to Christ. Year after year those letters became a highlight of our children’s birthdays.
Texting and emails are helpful to quickly figure out where your kids are or to ask them to pick up a carton of milk on the way home. But if you want to communicate your affection or challenge them to consider something important, try writing a letter. Try placing notes in their lunches, or backpacks, during the school year. Write encouragement letters inside their birthday cards. Leave the occasional note on their pillow and every now and then, send a letter with a stamp through the mail. Your kids are going to treasure the letters you send them, long after all your emails are gone.