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The Value of Letter Writing in the Digital Age

letter writingI love to get hand-written letters in the mail. Whenever I notice one peaking through the bills and junk mail, I can’t wait to open it.

Before the days of social media, e-mail, and video chats, I spent many hours writing letters to my relatives. I moved away after high school and couldn’t afford to call my family very often because of expensive long-distance rates (Yes, kids we had to pay additional fees to call people in other states. Crazy, right?). Writing letters was the only way to keep in touch.

I still have all of the letters that my mother wrote to me while I was away at college. They are all archived in a shoebox in my closet (I tried storing them in the cloud, but they kept getting soggy). Those weekly messages gave me encouragement and were like a warm hug on lonely days.

I want my kids to have these tangible memories. Sure, they have tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and free long-distance service, but none of these will ever replace old-fashioned letter writing.

My wife and I spent a good portion of the summer passing on this legacy to my 10 year old son. His assignment was to write one letter a week to his grandparents.

“Why can’t I just call them?” he asked. “It would be much easier.”

“Calling would be easier,” I said. “But your grandparents will appreciate a letter much more.”

He reluctantly complied and started cranking out the letters. When he received his first letter from his grandfather, I noticed a change in his attitude. He read it with delight and immediately sat down to write a reply. Each day, he’d beg to go the the mailbox to see if he’d received any new letters. Over the summer, I watched my son’s relationship with his grandparents blossom as result of their snail mail communication.

Right before school started, my son’s close friends moved away. He and my son exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

One day, I noticed my son’s sitting at the kitchen table with some notebook paper and a pencil.

“Are you writing a letter to your grandparents?” I asked.

“No,” he said without looking up from the paper. “Scott texted me his new address and I’m writing him a letter.”

It looks likes he’s going to need a shoebox of his own.

Connect with Fred on his blog Mocha Dad or via Twitter. You can also read more of his posts on Babble.

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Photo by Frederick J. Goodall

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