Culture

Friendly Letter

Herbert Knapp, “The Importance of Touch”

Everywhere I look nowadays, I see something that makes me think it should be put in archival storage; things are changing so rapidly. The latest example is the friendly letter. I can’t tell you how many mid-19th century diaries I’ve read (before the age of the telephone) where women kept track on the flyleaf of when and to whom they received letters, and the mail was delivered twice a day.

Much to my amazement, this week I actually received two friendly letters in my mail! The friendly letter does not tell anything newsworthy that has happened; rather it talks about what is happening. It is not a thank you, not an expression of sympathy, not an announcement of a surprise. I suspect most people would feel foolish writing one and puzzled receiving one. I can’t say what prompted my correspondents to write one other than a desire to “keep in touch.” And touching is what it is all about. It’s why we shake hands; why we hug, why we pat on the back, why newborn babies latch on to their mama’s breast.

Today I’m afraid many of us are more accustomed to touching our phones than each other. I understand that those in the know are predicting that AI will someday make it possible to read the activity of each other’s brains on our computer. God help us. 

If you’re too far away to reach out and physically touch someone, the friendly letter is the next best thing.

4 thoughts on “Friendly Letter

  1. Friendly letters are a wonderful thing. And you got two in one week! As for touching, there is a song written by Ashford and Simpson recorded by Diana Ross.” Reach Out and Touch Somebodies Hand, Make This World a Better Place If You Can.” Yes, we touch our phones too much, but they will never take the place of human contact. Just like all those “friends” on facebook.

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  2. I completely agree, Mary! I consider myself to be “old school” because I still love to compose and receive handwritten letters, postcards, and holiday greetings. I’m also very sentimental about keeping birthday cards and letters from those who have either passed away or simply “moved on” and forgotten me. I agree that the younger generation enjoys the instant gratification of simply tapping on a screen to “communicate” with others. I still love speaking to people in person and reading the notes they took the time to sit down and write me. I prefer that people “Friend me” in person instead of online. I often tell my students that all this “social media” has actually made us a little “anti-social.” Today, two people can interact with each other via text, cell-phone calls, or email for weeks and never see each other in person. I prefer the personal touch and human interaction from “the olden days.”

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