Pen pals remind us of the art of letter writing

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

An e-mail popped up in my inbox early this summer and a friend wanted to know if I was interested in becoming her pen pal.

“Wow!” I told her. “I have not had a pen pal for years.”

My first real pen pal experience was back in the 1960s with a girl named Lesley Nash who lived on a farm in South Africa. We were connected through our local newspapers, which had set up a program to connect kids from all over the world as pen pals.

Lesley and I wrote for several years and then suddenly stopped. I am not sure what happened, but it’s too bad that we didn’t stay connected when you consider how much has happened over the past 50 years in both of our countries.

Nowadays, it seems like the art of letter writing has vanished as communications have improved. Between texting and e-mails, we are connected all the time.

Today’s electronic communications demand immediate response; then get lost in myriad other electronic messages. And how many introspective thoughts are really found in an e-mail?

Writing a letter, on the other hand, provides an entirely different form of conversation. There is more time for reflection when you have time to collect your thoughts.

Some of the most famous letter writers that I recall are Abigail and John Adams, who wrote over 1,000 letters to one another. What a rare insight to life in the last part of the 18th century and the birth of a new nation.

So I received my first letter and read it slowly. She wrote that the last time we had been together I had inspired her to write new stories and offered her some writing tips too. I was anxious to sit down and tell her how much getting the letter meant. Then I started describing all the things that I had been up to this summer.

After she received my letter she called to say that she loved it and was working on another one. Then she added, “Getting a letter in the mail is knowing that someone loves you.”

She was right, because I know how I felt when I opened my mailbox. Now I hope in the future when she is my age, that through my letters, she will have received a greater understanding of me, her grandmother.