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Letter Writing: Why It's a Powerful Thing

“Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.” 

- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

            When was the last time you wrote a letter? This may require you to go all the way back to those elementary school notes you wrote to mom and dad about how grateful you were for them (or why you deserved a new bedtime). No matter how old (and literate) you have gotten, your parents very likely still have them in their possession as reminders of who you are, how you've grown, and the way you felt at the moment you were writing. The letters are more than just a collection of scattered misspellings and words mistaken for others; they are fragments of you.

            Of course, from the ages of about five to ten, none of us were master wordsmiths. We were simply learning to read, write, and convert our feelings and thoughts into words that conveyed them as accurately as possible. Often we would make mistakes on paper that botched even the simplest of ideas. Most of the time, this was not because we didn't know what we meant to say, but because we didn't know how to say what we meant. This has everything to do with why we wrote so many little letters in school. We were simply learning infinite possibilities of words, and it did a great deal in helping us learn to communicate.

            Unfortunately, once we weren't receiving grades for them, most of us just stopped writing letters. After all, this is the modern world. Both the young, the old, and everyone in between have access to tools such as social media and instant messaging for quick and easy communication. With even the spoken word rapidly becoming less important to the lives of human beings, letters have surely become obsolete, and it's a shame.

            I can see the eyes rolling already. “Letter writing? Why take all that time when you can just text someone?”

            To be fair, its a compelling argument. Letters are old fashioned, time consuming, and often require some serious thought. I can't count the number of times I've had to restart them entirely in order to place all of my words in such a way that expresses my thoughts exactly to someone who needs to hear them – however, that is truly and simply the purpose of the modern letter. Now that we are of a maturity that exposes us to new ideas and have a rapidly increasing grasp on language, letter writing is one of the best things we could possibly do for ourselves. They can be relatively hard work, but what they allow us is a way to communicate certain ideas precisely as we want them communicated. They give us full control of what we say and to whom we say it.

            In the past year, I've filled somewhere around one hundred sheets of loose leaf paper in total to be given to close friends, who never once have been anything but welcoming of them. Often they would even write me back, starting a long chain of giving, receiving, and providing each other with insight as to what was really on our minds. I can still remember the first time I received a reply from a close friend. It had been about a week since I'd given her my letter, and there was very little mention of it, so I assumed I shouldn't expect one in return. I was wrong. Tucked away in the ever growing mess that was my homework binder, I found a folded piece of printer paper covered in her words and memories.

            From then on, I knew I'd never stop writing letters, regardless of whether or not I get a response. Most of the time, just knowing someone read what I needed them to hear, whether it's personal, informational, or just entirely nonsensical, is absolutely enough. In fact, I think it's what keeps me sane.

            Language is an incredibly powerful tool, possibly the most powerful one known to us. You know you have something worth saying; we all do. Instead of containing or limiting it by relying on a text message or phone call, just write a letter. You never know; as well as enlightening someone else, you may just surprise yourself.

Madison R.