A revival call: The practice of reaching out

In the difficult weeks following the attack on my dog, two dear friends from North Carolina sent me cards. Both had taken the time to buy a card, write a note, find my address and a a stamp, and drop it in their mailbox. Their kindness lifted my spirits.


I wonder: why do we do less and less of this tangible caring for one another?

Computers have made us lazy in reaching out. “Oh, I’ll send an email,” or “I’ll put a heart on her status update on Facebook,” or “I’ll reply to his tweet to say I’m praying.” Don’t get me wrong: These are all better than no response to a friend in crisis.

A phone call is even better than tweets, Facebook posts and emails because it gives both parties a time and space to have a more real conversation. It’s a way of saying, “I want to hear your voice and know how you’re really doing without any sugar coating. I want to spend time connecting with you.”

While a letter doesn’t allow the sender to hear the voice of the recipient, it does provide a permanence that even a phone call cannot. Over the past few weeks, I’ve looked at these two cards, and they’ve reminded me of loved ones who care, of friends who thought enough of me to send a little extra cheer my way.

When I was in college (in the days before email, the Internet or cell phones), I wrote lots of letters—often as I sat in classrooms waiting for class to start—and talked on the phone more than I do now. I loved staying connected with friends flung to universities near and far. Letters were the least expensive way to stay connected because phone calls came with long-distance charges my college-student budget didn’t always allow. A stamp, though, was a bargain.

My love of writing letters and sending cards makes me feel like an oddball these days, an uncool, old-fashioned fuddy duddy. But I keep sending cards because I know the joy they bring me, and I want to send little bits of joy to the ones I love.

On Facebook recently, I shared an article What We Lose by Not Writing Letters. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it (but come back here when you’re done). Friends who love (and/or miss) writing letters, responded with their own stories of what they’ve lost in the absence of letter writing.

We’re not only losing connections with one another. We’re losing stories of our entertwined lives. We’re losing voices and memories and the particular slant of a loved one’s familiar handwriting. We’re losing irreplaceable moments of caring for one another.

A revival call
Will you join me in a revival? Pick one person this month whom you love and miss, maybe a friend or family member who lives far, far away from you. Mail that person a real, hand-written letter or a long note in a card. And then repeat the process in June—with the same person or someone else. And again in July and each month that follows.

If you join me in the revival, I hope you’ll let me know if it helps establish a lost connection, strengthens a bond, or maybe even creates a new (old) way for you to reach out.

And if you really love writing letters
My local newspaper just published a story about a neat way to support women newly diagnosed with breast cancer by writing letters of encouragement. Check out Girls Love Mail to learn how to participate. If you have letter-writing organizations near and dear to you, please feel free to share info about them in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “A revival call: The practice of reaching out

  1. Also, for me, it is not only the gesture of a card but the importance of the person’s handwriting. I treasure my grandmother’s recipe card and a note she wrote to go along with it. Even though it looks like swirly chicken scratch, I see that handwriting and automatically think of her.

    • You’re right about the handwriting. I have recipe cards from my mother, and it’s always a joy to see handwriting I recognize on a card in the mail. I wonder if there will come a time that best friends won’t be able to identify each other’s handwriting.

  2. And I was recently reminded by a colleague of the power of a short, sincere thank you note — again not email, but genuine ink on paper

    Easy to do, but hard for me to remember….

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