Today I saw this video, and it made me cry. Of course I shared it, and started blogging a comment that went ellipsical and ended up far from this video. So I shared the video with the lame comment of “Such a cool story!,” and decided to post the blog here. It really is a sweet love story, and I recommend watching the video, so here it is:
If you decided to skip the video, here’s the spoiler: boy send’s Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoebox to a girl in the Philippines when he’s 7 years old, girl finds him on Facebook 10 years later, now they’re married. There are so many things we could get from this story…. it’s a love story for a Hallmark movie script, a testament to shoebox ministries, a testimony that God brings two people together (bonus points if they had both just “stopped looking in order to focus on themselves”), all great things.
Here’s what made me cry: the power of showing love on paper to children in need. What need? The need for connection. I am forcibly reminded of the letters I received as a child in Mexico. I remember because I saved every single one. All the letters from my grandparents (so many postcards and place mats from my Grandma Dorinda!), my Uncle David in the Navy, my penpals (Jennie, Sara, Amanda, and Emily), the ones my dad sent when we lived in opposite countries (even the one he sent when I was at summer camp where he spelled my name with a y (he fixed it before he mailed it, and it took two tries for him to sign “Dad,” too, so it was just an off day that made me laugh)), the letters Angel faithfully wrote me when I was lonely in America, all of my birthday cards. They were read and reread, studied, memorized. I can tell you who sent me the same birthday card two years in a row, which cards ended up in my Bible and Box of Special Things, the round gold-rimmed Teddy bear sticker Sara sent me, the white cat birthday card from my Grandma Wiedling… these written words – so much more than my carousel horses or snow globes or shiny rocks or boxes or international coins or stamps or white teddy bears – these were (and are) my treasures. These are in my heart still, burned into my soul as the indelible reminder that I was not forgotten, that I was loved, that I was worth an international stamp. People get tattoos of the handwriting of loved ones, and I totally get it.
Since then there are wonderful inventions… email, Facebook, text messages, ecards, evites, affordable communication in and to almost any person in any country. It is convenient, customizable, dependable, and instant. It also gets lost, right in the palm of our hands, lost in feeds, inboxes, threads, accidental (or regrettably intentional) deletes, the fleetingness of Snapchat. There is no more saving the letter for when we can relax on our couch, or hiding in the privacy of our rooms, no more pages of stories, enclosed stickers, birthday cards with activities in them, specially chosen photos to be treasured. Boxes of treasured handwritten pages are a thing of the past, no more the ceremonies of burning love letters from that hurt us… the delete button removing most of our chance to halt such violence. There is no more choosing of stationary, finding pens that don’t smear, numbering of pages, taking the TIME to STOP and write to someone, to invest actual time in a relationship with someone far away, no more choosing what flat and weightless memento to enclose. Now we share snippets, emojis, endless streams of filtered and staged pictures. They come without ceremony or excitement. They are invasive, appearing instantly and stealing from us the option of choosing the location and circumstances of discovering what lies inside. There is no more turning a sealed envelope over in our hands, studying the stamp and postmark, wondering what the letter went through to get to us, realizing that we are touching a paper that not long ago was being held by someone thinking about us. The magic is gone. No we read our messages at stoplights, in lines at the supermarket, on the toilet, in the middle of dinner, in the middle of conversations with other people. The words are no longer sacred. Using a stamp has become a luxury, synonymous to actually paying for parking and going inside the airport to meet a weary traveler.
And they are typed. There is always an element of genericness about them, even if we have the option of font selection. Teenagers… would you recognize your grandparents’ handwriting if you saw it? Or your parents’, if it wasn’t just a scribbled note? Parents, would you recognize your teen’s developing script, the one they use in real life? Because our handwriting is US. It is our personality, our emotion, our development, our soul. They are pieces of and links to history. I have heard my aunt say, “Well, I’m not sure who’s in that picture, but that’s mom’s handwriting and she was labeling all these photos when she was in college, so it’s probably…” Could you do that?
I know my grandparents’ handwriting… my Grandma Wiedling’s short script on unlined white paper, my Grandpa Wiedling’s typewriter-like block letters on graph paper, my Grandma Dorinda’s narrowly-spaced cursive squeezing as much as possible on the backs of diligently-mailed postcards, my Grandpa Rupe’s childlike lettering (a result of learning disabilities and decades of teaching young elementary grades), my mother’s small loopy cursive, my dad’s scrawl, my brother’s big print. My own handwriting, like all of ours, has evolved into something that reflects me – a mix of print and cursive, depending on what is easiest in the space, with a’s shaped like “a” that came after my college calligraphy class. I have always regretted not knowing my Grandma Jean’s handwriting. She was the first grandma to see me, but died before I was old enough to get a letter from her. I do have samples of her handwriting, but they are not burned into me like the words that have been written for me.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I’ll be honest, I don’t take the time to write. I have a collection of fantastic Mother’s Day cards that I have collected annually for my Grandmother… some day she’ll just get a package of them. I have even made a rule not to comment on Facebook birthdays, because I carry so much guilt over not consistently commenting on everyone’s. I have so many things to write on my blog, but I don’t do that, either. I am too busy and too tired to muster the energy needed for this skill at the end of a day. But why is it a skill that requires so much attention? It used to be second nature. Why is it not normal for us anymore? And if the answer really is that we are too busy and too tired to invest in relationships that are out of sight…. for goodness sake’s, WHY??? Technology was supposed to make life easier, faster, more efficient. We should have more time and more energy. But… we spend more time editing photos, don’t we? More time checking email, more time thinking about 12 things we should be monitoring at once, more time synching schedules, more time sending one little text or email, more time watching just one more 22-minute episode.
And so we have forgotten the value of handwriting. We have forgotten how special it was to get a letter. We have forgotten what it is to sit and contemplate a friendship as we share our lives on paper. We have forgotten that labeling and describing the memory is more important than the perfect selfie. We have forgotten that children remember the simplest of things… like whether you remembered or forgot.
So right now, while I’m remembering… excuse me while I go write a letter to a child.