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The Power of A Handwritten Letter

The Unexpected Joy Found Inside My Mailbox

Checking informed delivery from the United States Postal Service from my phone, at least three times before seven a.m. is so routine for me now it has almost become like the movie Groundhog Day.

Wake. Check. Wait. Repeat.

Snail Mail has become so insignificant in recent years that I underestimated the impact a handwritten letter could deliver. We knew that when our son left for the Navy the communication was going to be scarce. Yet, reaching into the mailbox to retrieve a small envelope after two and a half weeks of zero communication provided a big range of emotions. His handwritten words felt like a homecoming of sorts. A small piece of lined paper filled with neatly printed words of his new journey and challenges reassured us and him, that everything will be okay. Relief, joy, and tears all came flooded in from this first small letter.

When Sam first left for boot camp I felt pretty good for the first week, even the second. I was and still, am confident and proud of his decision. However, after two and a half weeks, I underestimated how difficult that transition would be from speaking to him daily to not hearing a word for weeks. We knew it would be tough and it would be worth it but the lack of daily face-to-face conversations and phone calls started to wear me down. And then came that first letter. This small handwritten letter. It was like receiving the perfect gift at the perfect time. It quickly reignited my fondness for mail; real mail, tangible mail, the kind that actually means something when you open it. Not a bill, or coupon but one that brings you closeness and a new appreciation for the person who took the time to write it.

My husband and I write to him daily and did well before we received our first letter. I've become a bit of an expert in strategically sending them out. On Sundays, I batch write along with his siblings to ensure a steady flow coming to him when he gets his daily mail call. Monday mornings at the Post Office has become a standing appointment that I look forward to. I send some priority and some regular mail. I humor myself by thinking that I'm the only one who's figured out this hidden secret of how to spread letters out for 7 days.

He's only allowed to write home on Sundays, so once a week we wait patiently to receive our letter on Saturday. It has become a new ritual of sorts. Stalking the mail truck, running down to the mailbox only to immediately sprint back with excitement and hope for what's inside the letter. Reading and re-reading his letters has allowed us to stay connected even when we are miles apart. I found that the letters sent and received started to represent more to me than just what was written. They are a reminder of the importance of being intentional for someone's well-being. That someone is willing to give up their time to be still and focus solely on you. It's selfless, something I strive to be more of.

The truth is, I didn't always do that before my son left and neither did he. Being forced to communicate differently has made an impact on all of us. It's helped me pay attention to how I'm communicating in my day-to-day life and encourages me to slow down, listen better and be intentional about the words I use. My children have learned to not take advantage of the gift of each other's presence and that with deliberate thought and effort they will never grow apart regardless of where they land.

I never thought a handwritten letter could be so powerful. But it is. And unfolding the next one will bring continued joy from reading his unspoken words while appreciating the simple gifts God offers us when we need it.

Soon, my son and I will have our old ways of communicating back again with cellphone calls and texting but even with their convenience and immediate connections, they will always lack the excitement and anticipation of that handwritten letter in the mailbox. Nothing can compare to the multitude of feelings that can all be found in the delivery of a single, beautiful, handwritten letter.

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