A few times in my life someone has taken the time to write me a hand written note to thank me for this or that, or to just say “Hi, I was thinking about you.” I like that. We all like knowing that someone appreciates us and made special effort to tell us so.
The hand written letter is a dying art. We just don’t do it anymore. Many schools are considering dropping cursive writing all together. Personally, I think this is a huge mistake. First, handwriting is a skill and an art. It has value for this reason alone. Art is not practical in the strictest sense, but handwriting can be an art form and practical simultaneously. I envy those with beautiful penmanship. I really do.
Second, a handwritten note means I took the time to do something the hard way for someone else.
Third, handwriting reminds me of a simpler time, when time was not always of the essence. We can sit down and gather our thoughts. Handwriting requires thoughtful concentration because there is no auto correct or delete. To do it well, you have to slow down and think. Those are two qualities it seems we are losing more of every day.
Why I write it down…
A couple of years ago I attended an event for men and the guest speaker took the time to talk about the importance of writing down your thoughts for your children in the form of letters written to them. I thought this was a great idea. When we write our thoughts down, they have a tendency to stick around. They live on beyond the moment, and can be called upon later as a warm reminder to your loved ones that you love them.
I decided to start keeping a journal of my thoughts for each one of my children. I don’t write in their journals everyday, or even every week, but whenever I feel it appropriate. I tend to write on their birthdays, and other big events. Sometimes, like yesterday, I wrote to each of them because the thought struck me that as a family we are moving into a new phase where none of the girls are babies anymore. (The little ‘un is an almost three-year old squirrel now. She’s gone from a kid with a speech delay to the loudest chatterbox in the house. If you know my girls, to be considered the loudest of the three is saying something!) I wanted to capture some of my thoughts about them in this moment.
I want my children to know that I love them. Not just that I say the words – which I do – but that I was thinking about them when we weren’t together, and that I had particular thoughts about them. I talk about what they’re into at the moment, and the silly jokes they tell. I talk about the things I love about them, and yes, I even write some of the things I worry about. I tell them what I’m praying for them as well. I write down for them my hopes for them. I want them to have a written record of my thoughts about life as a Christian. I want them to know – in the permanence of the written word – that I want them to become followers of Jesus Christ. I want them to know why I’m a pastor. A pastor’s life keeps him away from his family at times, and my kids don’t always understand why this is. I’m sure they wonder about what it is that I do. I want them to know what drives me. Someday, I want them to understand the things that I may never be able to fully explain to them, so I write it down.
There are lots of ways to do this sort of thing for your children. I know a man who is very disciplined in his prayer life. He has lists and lists of the various people for whom he prays. He has a list for each of his children, and has decided to keep those lists for them so one day they can see what he was praying for and about them. This is a great idea! Imagine being a child and not only knowing your dad prayed for you, but that he has pages and pages of specific things he prayed for you. These are the sort of things that matter in the lives of people.
Some Practical Tips…
If you’re going start writing letters, journals, and notes for other people, I recommend a couple of things to help in the process. At least, these help me.
It sounds simple, but if you’re going to write hand written notes make sure the medium you use is of good quality. Nice linen paper is expensive compared to regular paper, but it sends a message that you thought enough of the person to use the best.
Simple blank “thank you” cards are great for a quick note.
When I’m keeping a journal for someone, I want to get something durable that will last for years. I normally look for a hard back. I prefer a real spine over spiral or ring bound, but if the metal spiral is thick and durable I’ll use it. I also try to pick a journal that fits the personality and tastes of the person for whom I’m writing. My girls’ journals are all tastefully girly. (Is that even a thing?)
Again, it sounds silly, but I find that when I write I want a pen that works well. I don’t like scratchy pens. I don’t like fine point pens for this reason, though a person with good penmanship can make a fine point look really nice. I prefer a medium point because I like the amount of ink it puts on the page without looking blotted or too wet. A good pen has to have an even flow or your writing looks awful. Having a pen that works well, makes the writing process more enjoyable.
There are lots of good pens out there. In the basic pen category, I like the Pilot G2 gel pens. The ink is smooth, if maybe a little too wet, but it isn’t scratchy. Scratchy is like nails on a chalkboard to me.
There are really high end pens out there too. Mont Blanc makes a nice pen, but with costs coming into the $200 range, I’ll pass. Parker and Cross also make a nice pens in the sub-$100 range. I think I prefer Parker to Cross. However, over a year ago I discovered Retro 1951 Tornado pens. I like them. The Tornado is a medium rollerball. They come in different styles and colors and the cost ranges from $20-$35. That’s not a bad price for a nice pen. I own two of them. Retro 51 makes a ballpoint for their pens, but I haven’t used it yet, and I have to order all my Retro 51 refills which makes them more of a hassle. The Tornado also accepts Parker style ballpoint refills which can be purchased at several office supply stores. This gives the pen more flexibility. The Parker ballpoints are probably the smoothest I’ve used. My only complaint with the Tornado is that the ink seems to run out fast. Of course, I write a lot so it could just be me.
I’ve thought about trying a fountain pen, but I tend to press heavily on the paper, and I’m not sure it would look good for me.
Believe it or not, you are not stuck with your handwriting. You can make it better it you take the time to practice. My penmanship is not great, but it has gotten better with practice. What good is it to hand write notes if no one can read it?
So, here it is…
Write down your thoughts for your family. Leave them something positive and lasting to which they can come back time and again. If you’re going through a hard time. Explain it to them in writing. Even if it is for your children, and they won’t read or understand it for years, it will matter to them to know what you were thinking, and how you handled problems. Be positive. Express to them what you want them to know. Remind them to follow Christ. Use writing to leave a legacy for those who come after you. The rewards may not be immediate, but they will be lasting.