The Handwritten Note; A Precious Point of Contact

Handwritten notes are just that: hand-written. They are valuable, they are personal, they are penned not only from your mind but from your very fingertips. A written note is unique and beautiful, creative and concise, and, therefore, more dense than a rambling email or a sprawling text message conversation. Also, space is generally limited on a cut piece of paper which causes one to be more intentional, with at least some forethought required. And finally, they allow (notice I used the word "allow" and not "make" or "force") us to practice our patience; snail mail is exactly as it sounds compared to the instant gratification we've become accustomed to with our beloved SEND button. I'm not saying that there isn't anything good about email, a text message, or a Facebook comment. I am simply saying that all these things have their place and purpose, and that the hand-scribed note is a precious point of contact that needs not be updated, outdated, or replaced. 
My mother-in-law has been sending us letters since my husband and I got married about four years ago. She is by far our most consistent and devoted mail sender, and oftentimes we have another letter in the mail box before we've opened the last. She writes us just to write, to tell us about daily tasks, a trip or some exciting sibling news, to give us a weather update, or to inform us of upcoming holiday plans. I am so grateful because she is faithful without any expectation of reply. I have saved my favorite letters from her - ones that tell of a landmark accomplishment in the family or ones that tell of no accomplishment at all, but give a sweet glimpse into her everyday life. It is a joy to read them now, over dinner or curled up in bed before we fall asleep, but I think the joy will only multiply as time passes. I'm so thankful to have documentation, penned from her hand, of life from her unique perspective. 
There is a sweet woman at my church named Diane. At some point Diane felt called to write a birthday card, every year on each birthday, for all the people she knows in our congregation - and it's not a small congregation. I'm not sure when this started or with how many people, but I have a feeling it's been many years. She's very humble about the whole thing and can be seen weekly, quietly walking around the sanctuary before and after church, often with a stack of cards multiple inches thick, looking for the recipients. Occasionally Diane's card is met with extra thankfulness because it is the only card that some people receive on their birthday. The cards always include an encouraging handwritten note and a bible verse, and no matter what specific words she uses, they all declare "You are important, you matter, you are special, and I am thankful that you were born." Words of truth that we all need to hear and know in a mighty way. 

I know what you're thinking... "I don't have time to send handwritten notes. They are so sloooow." Now, hold on just one hot second, not all things that are slow are bad. Sloths, for example, are extremely slow and extremely cute, and probably very important to the planet in some major way. School zones - let's be honest, safety is an excellent thing, especially when involving children. The dickens, whatever that means, is potentially a good thing. But for real, SLOW DOWN PEOPLE! Things like sweet friendships, delicious wine, and glaciers (yes, glaciers - this is what happens when I recruit my geology-loving husband to the brainstorming session) don't happen overnight, or in an instant for that matter. So I say, take 10 minutes, sit down at your kitchen table and write a little note to someone you love. Address it, lick the envelope, and drop it in your real, post cemented in the ground, have to go outside to the outside, mailbox. I promise, your heart will fill with joy as you write it - it's nearly impossible to avoid joy when practicing gratefulness and encouragement - and it will be a sweet and lovely gift for the one who receives it. It doesn't need to be perfect, and it doesn't even need to be a special occasion. Maybe it's even better if it's not.

Five Tips For Sending Handwritten Notes

1. It doesn't need to be perfect.

Anything you write is lovely. Don't stress out about your handwriting, about if the card is perfect for the occasion, or about if you have to cross a typo out. People will look past all of that in their joy and excitement of receiving your note. 

2. Don't expect a reply.

If you don't hear back from the recipient of your note, it probably didn't get lost in the mail. Most likely, they did indeed receive it and they did indeed love opening it. It's okay to leave it at knowing that you were given the gift of encouraging someone. Don't let a lack of reply stop you from writing other notes. 

3. Do it right away.

I often have really great intentions of writing someone a note, I get the idea at a random moment in my day and think, "I'll do that a little later," and then it slips out of my brain and I never seem to find an opportune time later to actually do it. Here's my suggestion (and something I'm trying to get better at), do it right away. The moment that little idea pops into your head - quick! Grab the nearest note card, greeting card, or scrap of paper, and write down that little bit of love. It really doesn't take that long, don't trick yourself into thinking it does. You can even address and stamp the envelope later if you need to. 

4. Have fun with the envelope.

Use a fun pen, get some colorful tape, google "hand lettered address" and give it a go. This will make that sweet "Oh!! I got a letter!" moment at the mailbox even more fun. Although, if you're feeling particularly void of creativity, don't worry about it. One of my favorite quotes from Elizabeth Gilbert is, "Done is better than good." 

5. It doesn't have to be a novel.

I know, I know, you're using a whole stamp!!! It's OK, really. I promise. A simple and short note is a gift to someone and it's much more likely to get done. If you intend on writing a lengthy update, for most of us, the anticipation of having to set that much time aside will prevent us from making it happen. If you can do it, good for you, but don't be afraid to jot down just a few sweet sentences and send it off.

:: Whitney :: 

**Many thanks to our wonderful guest blogger! Whitney is a former 1canoe2 crew member, but she remains (and will always remain) near and dear to our hearts!


Loved this post. I have been sending birthday cards to friends and family for quite a number of years, but didn’t always get much feed back till I started to shorten my list to mostly relatives. I’ve always loved receiving cards myself and love to scrapbook. I keep telling my children that those are my diaries :). I do the cards ahead of time and leave a sticky note on them saying when to mail. People still love receiving mail – thank you again for sharing this post and for your great points.

Sigi G January 14, 2016

Lo, I don’t think you’re silly at all! We always love receiving your notes. One’s in the mail for you as well ;). I hope that post-Christmas thank you note session happens, what a great idea!

Whitney January 10, 2016

Shivani — How wonderful is Big Magic? I can’t get enough of it right now. There are so many stellar one-liners in there that I want posted all around my desk.

And, Ayla, I need to follow your lead and get better at sending postcards. Those are such fun keepsakes that can be kept for children and even grandchildren to read!

1canoe2 | Haley January 07, 2016

I LOVE writing letters, but can sometimes get hung up on wanting a response from my friends and loved ones, then I feel guilty! This was an excellent reminder of the joy and love hand-written notes can bring to your favorite people. I loved Big Magic and the quote, “Done is better than good” is going to be written in my home-made planner! Thank you for sharing Whitney!!!

Shivani January 07, 2016

Beautiful post. Thanks for the lovely reminder!

Nancy January 07, 2016

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Writing notes gives me such joy—& people think I’m so silly. :) Someone recommended doing a post-Christmas thank you note session for families with kids: special dessert and hand written notes. Oh, and Whitney, a thank you is in the mail for you. Mwah!

Lobelia January 06, 2016

Great post! When I was younger I used to love to receive mail and I even had a penpal. I do miss the pleasure of getting snail mail and reading letters from people. Even a post card. Whenever I go on a trip somewhere I send postcards to my friends and I do have a friend that I write letters to as well. Its really awesome to see a little letter in the mail even if it is about random thoughts.

Ayla January 06, 2016

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