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The Virtue of Snail Mail by

How many of you have a pen-pal? No, not an online buddy you IM or chat with instantaneously. I’m talking about a good old-fashioned, hand-written letter-writing pen-friend. (That was a lot of hyphenation!)

I have had many pen-pals over the years. For me it started in elementary school with Sara from Leander, TX. That was back in 5th grade, and I was instantly hooked to learning about people from other places.

Then there was
Sanna from Finland
Natasha from S. Africa
Dima from the Ukraine
Sylvia from Poland
Inga from Latvia
Ligia from Romania
Amy from Alberta, CAN
Sana from Virginia
Krzysztof from Poland
Magdalena from Poland…

And finally, my dear friend Natalia from Poland whom I’ve have written to for the last 8 years or so. We started writing in college when I found her name through a Polish-American heritage organization. She was studying International Studies, English and Spanish. I was studying International Studies, Polish and Spanish. It seemed like a perfect fit. Almost a decade later we still write and share our lives with each other through snail mail. It is such a joy to find a letter postmarked from Poland arrive in my mail box every couple of months or so!

Letter writing has its virtues, at least in my humble opinion, and I’d like to share them with you. (It seems as though my posts of late are focusing on simplicity and I feel as though God has been trying to impress this lesson on me!)

First, letter writing provides practice in penmanship! Go ahead – laugh! But it does. The art of fine penmanship is waning in our digital world. And even though I consider myself one of those people “born digital” I have a deep appreciation for what was. Think of all the men who were scribes and recorded the words of our Lord. Penmanship is still a virtue in my book!

The next virtue is metalinguistic awareness. You’re probably thinking, “WHAT?!” Metalinguistic awareness is the knowledge and understanding of your own use of language. Writing to another person – especially someone whose first language is not English focuses you to think about your language. I consider myself to be a thoughtful person when it comes to my words. I choose them carefully, and I try to use language accurately and precisely. It is a virtue that comes in handy as we are called to speak and share the Gospel!

Cultural awareness and empathy grow out of writing to others who live and experience life in very different ways from our own. I think it makes us more sensitive to the needs of others, and we become more effective witnesses when we have an understanding of this. Americans are spoiled and we often take our wealth for granted. It is a real eye-opener to correspond with people from around the world. Furthermore, I believe that letter-writing is a personal and intimate way of getting to know someone. Think of all the letters the Apostle Paul wrote. He was a master at this form of communication and it helped him to forge and foster relationships…

Lastly, and maybe most important in my mind is the virtue of patience. Old-fashioned letter writing develops in us a sense of patience. Too many people today crave instant gratification. Sending a letter via snail mail will not provide you with immediate feed back. You must have patience and consideration. It takes time, but time and absence make the heart grow fonder. I have spent years and years waiting for letters to arrive – and the joy that I experience when a letter arrives… well, that’s the kind of excitement I imagine we’ll have as we finally see the Lord after patiently waiting for his return.

So, consider who you might write to, and send an old-fashioned letter. Wait for a response and relish in the experience of that letter finally arriving!

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Rom 8:25

2 Comments

  1. While I don’t write many long letters, I love to send and receive greeting cards. Birthday, anniversary, get well – you name it!
    Although I often receive e-cards, they just don’t have the same effect as when I open an envelope, slide out the card, and read a personal note written in the person’s own handwriting. Guess I’m just a Hallmark gal at heart! :-)

    Comment by Ava Pennington — October 25, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  2. This is something I would love to keep up with. I think I’ve fallen away though. I guess you can say I have internet pen pals, whom I message quite often. I know it’s not quite the same, I really want to work on that.

    Comment by Ruth G — October 27, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

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