Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Missing Letters

I'm spoiled. I know it. I like my modern conveniences like electricity, air conditioning, spell chek and remote controls. But with all the ubiquitous gadgets and devices that exist to keep us networked, I've discovered something I miss. I can't remember the last time I received a personal letter. You remember letters don't you? Before the invention of email, Facebook, Twitter, smartphones and three-cents-minute rate plans people had to write letters, especially if the person you needed to communicate with was "long distance." Miss Geneva and Miss Kornegey even taught letter writing as part of the lesson plans for third through sixth graders at Milford elementary. For many, letter writing was just a way of life. Kids wrote letters from camp and signed up for "pen-pals." Parents wrote letters to children who lived more that twenty miles away. College students wrote home to parents and grandparents. I can't remember the last hand-written letter of any length I received or that I've written to someone else. There are cheaper, easier, faster ways to communicate. But are they better? I don't know. Can you imagine what the apostle Paul could have done with Yahoo and Facebook? I've tried to analyze why I'm missing letters and I think the main thing was the personal connection. I receive and write cards occasionally and my wife, Pam, is great about card-sending. But cards are usually event or problem specific. Good letters are personal, informative, humorous, ofttimes intimate, and assume a level of knowledge which makes reading between the lines both possible and fun. I've a friend I dearly love whom I have blocked from my inboxes. All he ever sends are "forwards" of mind-dumbing trivia or political party bashing. I'd love to hear how his days are spend in retirement. How are his wife and those kids that I baptized and later performed their weddings doing? Tell me about your grand kids so I'll have an opening to tell you about my better one. What has the Lord shown them through the years and how is that foot with the nerve damage? Instead I get a forward message that began the rounds sometime back in the Clinton administration about the benefits and uses of vinegar. I'll cherish the letter my mom sent to me somewhere around my twenty-fifth or thirtieth birthday when she described the circumstances, the weather, and the feelings she had at my birth. It gave me the sense of actually being there. My dad wrote me a letter once. I've kept that letter buried deeply in my papers somewhere. Maybe my kids will find it when I die and they will see a glimpse of my dad that I didn't even know was there before "the letter." I'll always be amazed at the letters Dr. Shields, my theology prof. at Howard Payne wrote years and years after I'd graduated. Full page letters with tiny script, full of information but more encouraging that anything else. I was only one of hundreds of former students he wrote. I might make myself feel guilty enough that I'll write letters again. At nearly fifty cents postage for a letter and taking the better part of an hour to write, it would be quite an investment. Possibly that is really one of the problems in our world, we are very well connected but not very well invested in the hearts, minds, and lives of others. Letter writing is something of a lost art, to be sure. I hope it can be recaptured. If you ever doubt its worth I'd suggest you go to the computer and google "famous letters" or better still,recall those you received yourself (if you are old enough to have actually ever gotten a letter). Better yet, maybe just open the Bible and see the love letter God wrote to humanity. Dear Humanity, In the beginning........ Cos