You’ve Got Mail – Seriously?

When was the last time you received a handwritten note or letter from someone? How did it make you feel? Curious? Excited? Anxious? Afraid it was bad news? Surprised? No matter your answer, I am willing to bet receipt of it was quite a long time ago.

The day of handwriting or sending a personal note to someone is a fading art. Well, let’s just say, it is not a primary use of communication today. Why? Have we gotten lazy or has the age of electronic means of staying in touch been taken over with email, texting, Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, tweets?

According to the U. S. Postal Service’s annual survey, the average home only received a personal letter once every seven weeks on 2010. This is down from once every two weeks in 1987. “Why?”, you may ask. The Harvard Business Review refers to this as “natural evolution of communication”. Is it too much trouble to take the time to buy stamps or purchase stationery, or perform a “manual spell check”? Is it a cost factor? After all, emails, tweets, texting, FaceTime are all essentially cost-free. Think about it – how many of these means did you perform today? Probably dozens!

A recent study shared that the average corporate email account sent or received 100 emails per day. How about text messages? That same study, said Americans between 18 and 29 send or receive nearly 100 texts per day – at least! How much time does it take you to prepare, write and send a handwritten note or letter – minutes, hours? And then there is the time it takes to correct, edit, rewrite, or perfect the message.

When you receive a handwritten note, card, or letter the value of retaining them as a keepsake is usually long lasting. A valid point is, you are creating MEMORIES! However, when you use electronic means for communication, hit the “delete” button and it is GONE! Or think about how often I mistakenly hit the wrong key and POOF! It’s gone, probably not to be recovered unless I hire an expert to find it from the hinterlands!

Am I against the use of electronic means of communication? No way! When my grandchildren went off to college and one joined the Army, I found texting to be a most rewarding means to connect with them and enhance our relationship. Praise God for the gift of texting!

But, one of the benefits of a handwritten note or letter is it can become nostalgic and thoughtful to the reader. This simple act of putting pen to paper can strengthen relationships by showing you took the time and effort to show you cared enough to make the communication personal. With 200 billion emails being sent and received each day in America, your handwritten contact will surely stand out as special to the recipient.

When I was serving in the U.S. Air Force, one of my duty stations was in a very remote location – Bethel, Alaska. It was very barren and devoid of any vegetation, save for one lone tree, which we dubbed – Bethel Forest! The assignment was one year and was considered “remote duty”. Mail became our lifeline to the “Lower 48”. We each had our own mailbox in one part of the complex. Each day, we anxiously went to the postal center to see if we had any mail. The worst feeling of emptiness was when we checked and the box was empty.

Let me give you 12 examples of some handwritten notes:

1) I write articles for a local publication. This past Christmas, I received this note: “Terry, Merry Christmas! Thank you for joining our little family. We are so glad to have you & your great content! Much love to you . . .”

My chest swelled and I popped several of my shirt buttons. I felt pumped to write more!!

2) The great professional football player, Peyton Manning, is known more for the personal HANDWRITTEN notes he writes to other players to encourage them than he is for his football acumen. Now there is a statement for you about the positive impact written notes have on people!

3) Recently I made a contribution to our church youth to help them buy a basketball goal. A “Thank You” card came in the mail personally signed by the kids thanking me for my contribution. WOW!! How special was that? If our younger generation can take the time to show written appreciation, can you not do the same for someone you care about?

4) “Love Tags” – We started a tradition for stocking stuffers with our family several years ago. It works like this: We look for character trait we observed during the year. It is written on a piece of paper and placed in sealed envelope. This is placed in their stocking. When they find it, they can choose to read it to everyone or save it to be read later. In almost all cases, they read it in private, which is fine as it IS personal.

Examples of a trait:

A descriptive word that comes to my mind when I dwell on your gifts is the word, “Nice”! Your work peers/boss refer to you as being nice, but I so admire you get the job done “nicely” without be forceful, demanding, or losing your cool. I compliment you on that talent that you use so effectively and successfully.

COMMITMENT: comes to my mind as your love tag for the year. I see so many ways you stay committed to family, church, friends, leadership opportunities, involvement with family – just to name a few. You are building such a lasting legacy as you put yourself in the forefront of each of these activities, this continues to make me so proud of you!

SUPPORTIVE: I have seen you in action as you minister in your own loving way to family and friends who are suffering physically and spiritually by providing encouragement in many forms -sometimes with food – sometimes with visits – sometimes with a tear in your eye, but always with sincerity. I pray you will continue to “feel” what others are going through in their lives.

5) Another way to show someone you care about them is leave a handwritten note on different occasions. Perhaps it’s on a Post-it note, or small note paper of any kind. The key is, let it be handwritten. Place it in different places such as, steering wheel of the car, beside the coffee pot, inside a purse, on the bathroom mirror, be creative. When I traveled a lot, I was always excited to look in my suitcase, because I knew there would be a personal note from my wife hidden somewhere saying she missed me and loved me. Of course, I left a a note for her that she could easily find at home.

It’s the little things in life that have a positive impact to let someone know you care about them. It reinforces your love for that person. Try it – I promise you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

6) Do not overlook “Thank You” cards to show appreciation for someone who does something special for you or just for a deed that was done for you. How about saying “thanks” for being a friend in a time of need? Just be sure it is HANDWRITTEN!

7) Get well cards are a super way to encourage a person who is going through health issues. Recently I was dealing with a bout of upper respiratory congestion that just would not go away. A friend from church sent me a card with beautiful tulips on the front. While I loved the flowers, what was HANDWRITTEN inside meant more than the lovely scenery.

8) “Think it – ink it”. If you see something you admire in someone, make a note of it to share later when the opportunity arises. Remember the value of sharing thoughts or encouragement to someone by writing a short note. You will boost their spirits a thousandfold!

9) During troubled times, what about developing a “Pen Pal” method by writing a short note to someone who may need encouragement? It could be to a shut-in person, nursing home resident, someone who is quarantined, or a military person.

10) Gratitude for a church providing muffins to high school staff: Dear . . . : “You blessed the staff at . . . by your generous baked muffins. I am blessed by a responding congregation and friendship.”

11) Loss of a loved one. There all kinds of pre-made cards in the retail market. Rather than sending one of these in the mail, why not send a handwritten note of encouragement? No need to go into something lengthy. Just share something like: “I cannot imagine what you must be going through. Just to let you know you are loved. I am praying for you to feel God’s loving presence now and in the days to come”.

12) Lengthy illness, try sending an occasional card: “Just was thinking about you and wanted to send you a note as a reminder of my love and caring.”

The most important thing to remember is, when you send a handwritten note, it lets the recipient know you CARE. In this day and age, as most communication is by electronic means, we need to return to a more meaningful way of communicating that people can keep for a lasting memory. Send a note TODAY, while you are thinking about it. It WILL be appreciated.

-Terry Miller has over 30 years of banking and training experience with major banking institutions.12+ years as owner/principal of Terry Miller & Associates – a training and development firm. He spent 8 years as director of Pastoral Care with Waxahachie Bible Church. Terry is currently semi-retired. Continuing with self-employment directing Terry Miller & Associates, a consulting firm conducting speaking and training engagements, in addition to authoring and publishing 4 books.


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