Several weeks ago I came across a note my father had written in 1953. It was over sixty years old. My Dad passed away 34 years ago but as I looked over his written words, I felt as if he was standing next to me, smiling. I stared at the way his letters were written, the curls, the way he formed each one and wondered what was going on in his life, and through his mind, at that moment. There was a small stain on the page and I tried to imagine what may have caused it. I ran my fingers over the letters and smiled as I took in the knowledge that I was holding a very small part of his life in my hands. It was very personal.
I recognize that my feelings on cursive handwriting is, in some ways, generational. And I understand that if you’re reading this and are under the age of 40, you may want to patronize me with a smile, pat me on the head and send me on my way. But you’d be wrong to do that. Because the truth is, we don’t know what we don’t know and to think otherwise is shortsighted.
I’m a fan of modern technology, even at, what some of you may view as, my advanced age. But there’s always a price to pay, isn’t there? For as much as we gain, there is always something we lose. Sometimes the tradeoff is worth it; sometimes it comes with a bill I’d rather not pay. For me, the loss of human interaction is a big downside to technology. In this specific case, it’s more personal . It’s a loss of history. Mine, yours and ours.
Not many people write anymore. Instead we send texts and emails over phones or computers. Cursive handwriting isn’t even required past third grade, though some schools still teach it without attaching grades to the practice. So much of our country’s history is written in documents, letters and books, yet experts have suggested that since future generations have not practiced the written word, they won’t be able to recognize or read it.
For me, a handwritten note is like a photograph; a moment of our lives that’s frozen in time. Unfortunately, it’ll be gone soon, and along with it words and letters that were never written. Future generations will never know what it’s like to carry around a simple I love you in your pocket, purse or wallet for years and how personal those written words feel.
So write a child or someone you care about a letter or short note today. It doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be you. It may take you a little more time and you may have to explain what that strange form of communication actually is. But you never know. One day, sixty years from now, that person may find the note and read it. They may wonder what you were thinking or feeling as you wrote it and what that strange stain on the paper might be. And maybe, if they linger long enough, they just may feel you standing next to them, smiling.