Your Gift to the Future: Why You Should Write Letters

by AbbyFitz

In this digital age, anything handwritten is rare. In an attempt to become more efficient, we are losing the means by which our descendants can learn about how we truly live.

Technology develops at an alarmingly fast pace. What was state of the art even 10 years ago is considered ancient and obsolete by our current standards. Even though we may save information onto a hard drive, flash drive, etc., it doesn’t mean our children and grandchildren will be able to retrieve it and read it in the future.

As a court reporter, I have seen countless times where a company had been subpoenaed for correspondence and documents from as little as ten years ago, but they couldn't produce anything because the form in which they were saved is now obsolete.

I mean, really, how many of us would be able to open a document from a 5 1/4” floppy disk we had in the '80's, or even a 3 1/2” floppy disk from the early 2000's for that matter?

Today’s preferred way of communicating is via email, Skype, or texting, none of which is in a hard form that will be able to be retrieved 100 years from now.

That’s why handwritten correspondence should not only be encouraged, but a habit that each of us practice on a regular basis.

Letters Tell a Story of Lives Long Past

Past and present are more similar than we realize

A rural Missouri highwayI was staring out the window on our way home from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Rocky Ridge Farm lost in thought. We had toured the museum which housed a lot of Laura’s things, including a vast amount of correspondence between her, her sisters, and parents. There were even letters from her parents’ generation in the 1850's and '60's.

It was amazing to me to be able to read everyday details about people who lived 150 years or more ago: so-and-so had taken ill and died, the crops for that particular year were good, congratulations on the birth of a niece or nephew. These letters gave me a window into the past. Without them I never would have known these people existed or what they had been like.

I compared them to myself. And in doing so, I realized that their lives really were not all that different than mine. I work, just as they did. I've lost friends and family members to death, just as theirs did. I have my own thoughts and opinions about national and world events going on during my time in history, just as they did in theirs.

Then it hit me. In this era of emails and computer storage, how will my descendants learn anything about my life and how I lived it?

"Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them" Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Letters Connect Families Through the Generations

Written letters let us see a side of our parents we never knew
My Father During WWII
My Father During WWII

My father served in World War II. While going through boxes of old papers after his death, I found letters he had written back home during this period in his life.

In them I learned who my father was. Not the elderly father I had known growing up, but a scared 17-year-old boy at boot camp in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.

I read about how homesick he was and how badly he wished he could come back home. I also saw in my mind’s eye an excited kid when I read a letter he wrote to his father in which he was describing seeing snow for the first time.

Today’s military soldiers and their families face no different circumstances than my father and his parents did. Soldiers are still deployed far from home for extended periods of time, but modern conveniences have made it easy to bridge the miles.

Skype is a wonderful invention. It allows families to see each other face to face. Emails can be sent and read by their recipient within minutes. So why should we still write letters?

Letters are a tangible thing. Soldiers’ children and grandchildren can see a side of them they never knew, especially if they were killed in action. Letters are a physical thing that a person can touch and know that their loved one held this once and poured their soul out in words to their families back home.

These family letters are invaluable to me because they were written by my father. But, they are also invaluable to us all because they give us insight into the times surrounding World War II.

Letters written by soldiers today will be just as valuable in the years to come. Not only to their children and grandchildren, but to historians who can use them as a tool to learn about how military life was during wartime.

During WWI, from the years 1914, to 1918 when the war ended, millions of letters were written. Those letters are now very collectible.
WWII was a very important part of the history of our planet. The people who had to save the world were ordinary people like you and me. Their letters tell the stories.

Letters Give Us a Window into Important Periods in History

Written letters let us see what life was really like during difficult times

My Grandparents in the Fall of 1939A few years ago my cousins and I found some old letters in the attic of my grandparents’ abandoned farmhouse.  These letters were written by my grandparents in the early thirties before they married.

The Depression had hit my grandfather hard. To earn money before he married my grandmother, my grandfather had gone west to Oregon to work on the railroad and anyplace else he could find a job.

In his letters, he told my grandmother about Oregon and the type of work he was doing. He asked her how she was doing and told her how much he couldn’t wait for them to get married. It was sweet to read about two teenagers planning the rest of their lives together.

We've all read about The Great Depression in school. There's been numerous television documentaries made that tell us about that particular time in history and how hard it was for everyday people. But reading firsthand experiences, especially from my grandparents, gave me insight into how hard life truly was. I learned how my grandparents made it through tough times with tenacity and love.

Will our descendants know how we responded to such things as our current recession? September 11th? How about the Boston bombings? All they will know is whatever is written down in history books and what may or may not survive in our current media format.

They won’t be able to read personal stories of their great grandparents because there are too few of us putting pen to paper.

Historical Letters and Documents for Sale

Own Your Own Piece of History

Writing Letters was my Hobby

If you're lucky enough to know a letter writer, write them back!

I've always been a letter writer. I liked to send and receive letters like some people like to collect stamps or trading cards. It was an offbeat hobby.

I still have letters I received from pen pals from Korea when I was in second grade. I've saved letters from a good friend from high school I wrote to when he was in the Iraqi War.

My most treasured letters are from my father. When I was very young, my mother and I would spend summers in Missouri while my father stayed here in Florida. He and I would write letters back and forth to each other. I'd tell him about new things I did or learned there, and he'd tell me how my cats were doing and to be a good girl.

I've sadly gotten out of the habit of writing letters. I stopped because I would never receive a response from people I wrote to. It was very discouraging because I had thought of a person, taken the time to write them, and they didn't respond. 

So, please, if you receive letters, write that person back and let them know you appreciate receiving their letters in the mail. They are actually giving you a part of themselves.

When was the Last Time You Wrote a Letter?

How to Write a Friendly Letter

It's easier than you think, and takes no more time than writing an email

Letter writing can be difficult to someone who's never done it, but it's really quite easy. I always recommend starting small, like thank you notes and good wishes inside greeting cards, and then moving on to letters.

With letters, it's best to just write as if you were carrying on a conversation. Write about what you've been up to, or something that you find interesting in your neck of the woods. Ask your recipient how they're doing, wish them well, and add any words of encouragement.

Though they seem like mundane things, it offers a chance for others sneak a peak at the world around you.

Also, be sure to save any letters that you receive, especially if they are from family or close friends. This will give them a chance to speak to your children and grandchildren years after they've written that letter to you.

Pretty Stationery and Notecards to Get You Started

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Further Instructions on Letter Writing

Learn how to write great love letters, what to say, words to use that touch your lovers heart. Copy great love letter samples here today.
When you need to write to a company, you want your letter to contain all the facts and to look professional so that the company will pay attention.
Sometimes things don't go right and you really want to make sure someone is aware of the issue. Here's the right (and wrong) way to complain.
Updated: 10/22/2013, AbbyFitz
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AbbyFitz on 11/26/2013

Even if it's in cards, it counts! Thank you for stopping by.

VioletteRose on 11/26/2013

Beautiful post! I personally like writing letters but nowadays its only emails. I remember writing letters in my childhood for my best friend. Today, I write something only on birthday cards and greetings.

AbbyFitz on 11/08/2013

Thank you for your kind words! Written letters are truly like holding history in your hand

DerdriuMarriner on 11/08/2013

You've written a heartfelt tribute to letter writing. I hope that we aren't witnessing the demise of this wonderful form of communication. There is something so personal about words penned in one's own or another's handwriting. The thoughts may be the same, the sentiments may be the same, the words may be the same in other media such as email, but the personality which emerges via penmanship, which is personal and distinctive to each person, is missing.

AbbyFitz on 10/23/2013

Thank you. Hopefully people will consider writing more often

ologsinquito on 10/23/2013

This is something I don't think a lot of people have thought about, that the art of letter writing is dying out and that children and grandchildren won't have emails in a few decades from now. Food for thought.

AbbyFitz on 10/23/2013

Thank you! I'm glad I'm not the only one who looked forward to letters.

teddletonmr on 10/23/2013

Abby, thanks for your letter. Reading it gave me reason to reflect on days gone by, a time when I too looked forward to receiving letters from loved ones. I too remember good ole camp swampy, N.C., and the med.
Letter from mom, my little sister kept me up to date with things going on not covered in the newspapers, or radio newscasters found important.
Be well, your friend teddletonmr

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