There are many characteristics that could be said to define this time in history, but one that stands out to me in particular is that of communication. In the twenty-first century, more than ever before, much of mankind has access to technology that aids in long-distance communication. We have advanced from the telegraph to e-mail and Facebook, and although telephones are still in use, their functions have been both augmented and changed by the passing of time. We have Skype now, as well as texting and instant messaging. And as the number of ways to communicate through electronic devices increases, I fear that more traditional communication methods are being minimized. Why should I walk down the hall to ask someone a question, when I can just text them? Why write a thank-you note, when there are equally delightful e-cards? Why write letters to your mother back home if you can just call her on your cell phone anytime you like?
Much could be said about electronic vs. written modes of communication, but I want to specifically focus on letter-writing, since this is something that I enjoy and that I am trying to carry on.
It is a tradition, after all. My mother, when she was in college, regularly wrote to her mother out of necessity, I suppose because it was expensive to make a long-distance call home. Some may consider this burdensome–“What? Write whole letters? Calling is so much easier and convenient. I don’t have time to write!” Indeed, at times I feel this way. But letters can provide things that phone calls cannot, nor ever will. My mother today has that entire correspondence between mother and daughter, chronicling that period in her life along with the emotions, questions, and general news about what was going on in their lives. She continued this correspondence even after marriage, although at a certain point it ceased because their physical distance was decreased when our family moved to Fort Worth.
It may also be noted that much of the world’s known history has been preserved thanks to letters that have survived, which tell of events and circumstances that would otherwise have been forgotten forever. Much of inspired scripture also appears in the form of letters. I do not say this because I think that my mundane correspondence will someday be highly regarded by others, but I do think it important for young people to have a concern for preserving their early years in some sort of written form. True, many memories may be preserved (or rather, invoked) by photographs, but letters are a much less superficial type of personal history.
I write letters home not only because it is a medium in which I am comfortable conveying my thoughts and feelings, but also with an eye to the future, knowing that many years hence I will be able to look at these letters and see where I was in life at that time; to reminisce and see how far I’ve come. It is somewhat difficult. Sometimes I want to tell my mother something right that minute, and I am tempted to call her instead of writing, knowing that a letter would take several days to reach its destination. But I want to continue with this tradition, and Lord willing I will write plenty more letters in the future, and have plenty to write about.