I am definitely someone who embraces technology. While I am not a tech wiz, I have a healthy appreciation for every advance that allows me to do something more quickly and easily. It should come as no surprise that I quickly embraced technical approaches to communication and was an early adopter to email and texting. The faster and more easily I could communicate without actually having to even speak to someone, the happier I was. I long ago stopped buying stamps and gave up the illusions that I would ever send correspondence through the postal service. In fact, once I became capable of paying bills electronically, I really had little use for the mail system except, perhaps, for having packages shipped to me when I shopped online.
As part of my volunteer activities, I serve as Chair of the Board of Managers for the YMCA in my community. About six months ago, our Y hired a new Executive Director who I would have to work very closely with. She and I spent a good deal of time last fall getting to know each other’s styles and developing an understanding of the best ways to work in alignment. She likes to pick up the phone, I typically send emails. She does not receive emails on her phone but will happily send texts. We fell into a rhythm that works for us. Admittedly, given the volume of emails I get everyday between my personal and work accounts (since that is my preferred source of communication), it can be difficult for me to get back to people in a timely manner. She and I were discussing this challenge in order to look for alternate strategies to ensure that we would be able to take care of important matters as they arose. Jokingly, she suggested that I might try a new approach to correspondence – sending things through snail mail. This actually led to a very interesting discussion about the merits of a handwritten note.
We have moved so far away from the personal touch of sending someone a note in your own handwriting – an exercise that requires you to make the effort to get a stamp and deliver it to a mailbox. We evolved from sending birthday cards in the mail, to e-cards via email to a witty and quick message on Facebook to acknowledge those we care about. While Facebook offers an opportunity to reach many people who you would otherwise never be able to send a greeting to, for those nearest and dearest to us, it becomes a bit impersonal to simply send an electronic greeting. And, I say this being the worst offender. I realized several years ago that I had abandoned the effort of mailing out birthday cards with heartfelt notes. In fact, my husband and I had even gotten to the point that we didn’t bother giving each other cards on Valentine’s Day, birthdays or our anniversary so as not to waste the money and gather more trash. It began to disappoint me because I really believed that I was much more sentimental than that and, in truth, once upon a time I saved every letter and card he or anyone else important ever gave me. What had happened to that romantic? How had I completely moved away from a practice I actually enjoyed?
When I was talking to our Executive Director about this last fall, she told me of her commitment to continue to send out handwritten notes and it inspired me. I balked at the time but it began to really resonate with me as I recognized that there is something so valuable about that personal touch. There is nothing that can replace the words that stream from you when you hold a pen in your hand after you have purchased a meaningful card with a sentiment that captures how you are feeling at that very moment. No email, text, Facebook message, emoticon, tweet or any other electronic form of communication could accurately replace that gesture. I decided that, going forward, I would be more conscious, more deliberate, more intentional, more sentimental, more romantic, more connected to those around me and make an effort to produce those notes to ensure that the passion in my words were not lost through a drab electronic greeting.
I’m still very much a work in progress here because I have to always try to remember to make that effort. It does not come naturally to me. However, now I think about it much more and imagine the reaction of the person who finds that envelope in their mailbox and all the emotions that go along with the words written inside. I suppose that I disconnected emotionally from the process and, as my journey continues, this becomes another part of my evolution.
So go out and send someone you love a note to tell them how much you love them. They will appreciate it. I know I would.