The lasting power of the written word

Most students—myself included—sometimes find that they cannot set their phones aside for even an hour to concentrate on what they should. While we tend to complain about the lack of value we have in friendships, looking first at ourselves to see how we might be adding to the problem can be the best option.

From the outside looking in, the issue boils down to an apparently simple, yet complex problem—smartphone use. Most people tend to use their smartphones in the course of their busy lives to schedule reminders or to plan the free time we do have with our friends. But throughout all this, the art of quality communication has been lost.

I have worked toward overcoming the problem in my own life by turning back to the written word.

In Jan. 2016, I resolved to limit my activity on Facebook and other social media, instead keeping in touch through the old-fashioned route—not necessarily the pony express, but through the mail.

The fact that half my friends live across the country also gave me an excuse to indulge my creativity outside of technology. Not only does writing letters allow you to choose from a wide variety of stationery but receiving something in the mail other than bills and junk is such a surprise.   

The act of letter writing also forces you to give someone your full focus when you are unable to visit them face to face. It provides an opportunity to discipline yourself to sit down, center your thoughts, and keep writing until you are finished.

Getting to choose stationery based on your friend’s personality and knowing it will bring a smile to their face is also what makes it special to write to someone. I do not buy my stationery from Barnes & Noble, but instead I invest in artists’ work to help support their careers. I admire their paintings, but since I lack the money right now to support them that way, I make a point of using whatever cards they have.

Sometimes I will go out of my way to the St. Peter Co-op down the road in order to snag some beautiful landscapes and animal portraits made by Malia Wiley, who lives in Crystal Lake.

In case anyone gets the wrong impression, I don’t feel like I have to write to every single friend I have. I start with a couple of friends I have gone a few years without talking to, which gives both of us plenty to catch up on.

A person cannot completely avoid change, however—and not just with technology. I have realized this, especially the older I get, as friends become occupied with their careers, families, or other commitments in life. So even though sometimes our communication lasts only a couple of letters, I know that I was still able to get a glimpse into the life they now lead and find out how they are doing.

I am grateful for having gotten reacquainted with my friends throughout the year, even if it is only through a letter every other month. I have also learned the meaning of true friendships, that despite the fact that a friend may face challenges of their own, they will still make time for me.

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