There’s something about the soft bang of the letterbox flap that gives me a burst of excitement each day. Hidden amongst the pizza adverts, utility bills and appointment letters I occasionally find a gem – a proper handwritten letter.
As I open the envelope containing a card or letter from a friend or relative, I take joy in the knowledge that I am holding something they recently held in their hands. There’s something very material and real about our interaction – I can see the dents of their pen on the paper, imagine their tone of voice as I read the words. I imagine the thoughtful process they went through to send my letter on it’s journey with one thing in mind – me.
It’s so easy for us to ping each other quick Watsapp messages and emails these days, which is a great thing. At the moment, these technologies are a very important way to stay connected to friends and family. But there’s something special about sending and receiving old-fashioned snail mail. Perhaps it’s the slowness of it. It takes time to find pen and paper, sit down and collect your thoughts onto paper. You can’t just delete mistakes or ill-thought out sentences, so as you are writing you have to think carefully about the person you are writing to: Will they enjoy this joke? What are their interests that I can ask about? How can I express my love and care when I am not able to see them?
Once you’ve sealed the envelope, spent half an hour locating the address you need and found a stamp, sending your letter feels like an important mission. Next comes the task of getting your post on its way – whether your walk to the postbox is long or short, there’s a satisfying sense of purpose in this stroll. Once posted through that small red slot, your message is at the mercy of the postal system, an incredible labyrinth of sorting and transporting. The uncertainty about when your letter will turn up on its recipient’s doormat requires patience and trust. It still astonishes me that most things I post manage to get to their destination within a few days.
At this time when we can’t be with people we love, sending a letter can communicate so much. It demonstrates a thoughtfulness and investment beyond a quick text message. This week, why not spend a spare moment writing to someone you haven’t been able to see? Maybe they live on their own, are finding lockdown hard or you simply miss them. Who knows, maybe they’ll write back and it could be the start of a beautiful, slow correspondence.
Important note: We do need to be cautious as we send and receive mail at the moment – we should all be taking steps such as washing hands after opening mail to avoid the risk of passing on the Covid-19 virus. It might be worth popping a note on the outside of your envelope to remind your recipient to do this.