Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Letters Then, E-mail Now


When I was a teen, we sent bought or homemade thank you cards for gifts received. We mailed birthday, Valentine, Easter, and Christmas cards to friends and family. We signed them with our name and perhaps a note inside telling what we'd been doing. We also wrote letters. On paper. With pen. My favorite letters to write were to my penpals in England, Germany, and Japan. They sent postcards that told me a lot about their city and country, more than I ever got out of a history book. The responses took a week or longer to arrive. My penpal in Japan and I corresponded for many years. He sent me beautiful gifts. See the photos. I sent him Texas stuff, I can't recall exactly what now. But I wonder if he still has any of them. Or am I the only pack rat?

When I taught third grade, one of my students had an aunt who taught in California. My students started writing penpal letters to her class, and it was so much fun to learn about the kids in another state. They sent us California stuff: a book about the redwood trees, along with a sample, and pictures of their class. We sent them bluebonnet seeds, of course, and other items that have slipped my mind. It was a wonderful experience for both groups of children. For this teacher, too.

John Adams, 1765, said "Let us dare to read, think, speak and write." You may have noticed this statement on your postal receipt. Check out the Website to see links to his letters to Abigail Adams.

Now: We e-mail cards for all occassions. Some of them play music; some have little characters that dance and sing. We e-mail letters and can receive a response in a matter of minutes. But the form of the letter has changed. We abbreviate words, or use computer language, except for me because I haven't a clue. I know LOL, and that's about it. Times change, and I've met some wonderful people in countries all over the world through the Internet. E-mail saves postage. E-mail is faster. But e-mail sent to everyone in your address book is impersonal. So make those messages personal to each individual, unless it's a "fun" thing.

There is room for both in our world. An occasional letter or card on paper is a nice touch. Otherwise, future generations won't have the lovely reminders of birthdays, anniversaries, and family memories that only the printed word can bring.

Happy Writing Everyone.

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