Monday, August 15, 2011

The Written Word

A while back, I was at home looking through a box of old photos and letters we found when a relative passed away. There were post cards and hand written letters that showed much of what life was like for our family 100 years ago. It was interesting to read and we learned more about them than we had known before. You can tell a lot about a person by their handwriting and they spoke of favorite dishes, who they had visited, the weather, what they had been doing, how the crops were faring, a big flood, and so on.

It bothers me that so much of our communication these days is electronic and will be lost for our families. Granted, there weren't stacks of letters in that box, so I am sure many of them were thrown out, but I love history and believe we can all learn something from our ancestors, how they lived, what they were like.

Many of us have some sort of family tree and can show you the names and dates, but that doesn't tell you anything about the person. I look at those names and wonder what their hobbies were, where did they live, did they have a sense of humor, did they like music? A list of names is just a boring list of names. It's the personal stories that interest me.

I can't imagine not being able to access the internet and answer the thousands of questions in my brain. How great it is to be able to e-mail friends and send photos in the blink of an eye, but how many of our letters are being saved for posterity? A hand written letter is a gift from the writer. I only have one friend who writes letters any more. Each week we fill each other in on what is going on in our lives. We look for pretty note cards and stationery to write on. It is actually therapeutic to sit down in a quiet place and write to my dear friend, but I'm afraid it is becoming a lost art.

Technology has allowed us to do things no one ever imagined 50-100 years ago, but in ways, it isn't progress at all. We are all so busy and racing to keep up we miss out on the beauty of a hand written letter. People's handwriting has, in most cases, gotten much worse. Children text with abbreviations, would rather watch tv than read, and spelling is atrocious. Progress? At what cost?