The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

Amish Mailboxes

The mailboxes of my grandpa & great-grandfather (across the street from each other) in beautiful Churchtown, PA

“…I longed to know him again, the lonely writer of those letters who never heard of such things as e-mails, twitter and who lived in an age not so long ago, but that might as well belong to another era. It is one where the mailman still played the troubadour of sorts for star-crossed lovers, and not what he is now: The carrier of bills and junk mail.” – Andrew Lamb

I grew up in a little town in Texas, far away from my Amish grandparents in Lancaster County, PA. We rarely spoke on the phone. And only saw each other a handful of times per year. There was no Facebook, Skype,  or even email. But I felt beautifully connected with them thanks to the treasures called letters that were often delivered to our mailbox at the end of our long country lane.

There’s something incredibly special about opening the mailbox and discovering an envelope addressed to one’s self. I’m nearly forty years old and I still get every bit as excited to receive a handwritten letter now, as I did when I was six years old.

I’m not alone in my sentiments. We all love getting a letter in the mail. A little note, a lengthy letter or anything in-between brings joy to anyone – anywhere, at any time!

Both of my Amish grandmothers were wonderful letter writers. They filled their stationery with things like news of the weather, family updates, local happenings, celebrations, unusual tidbits of information, and what was happening in the garden, or on the farm. I particularly love this letter my mother saved – written by my Grandma Esh in the form of a poem, and sent to her children and grandchildren in the family “Circle Letter”:

Grandma's Letter

Grandma's Letter 2

So what makes a good letter? I love this explanation:

“What makes a good letter? For me, a good letter is personal and personalized. A good letter takes time to write. The thing about writing a letter is that no one can multitask while doing so, unlike e-mails or telephone calls. A letter represents undivided attention and is precious as a consequence. Oh yes, a good letter is handwritten, not a cut-and-pasted, global searched-and-replaced bit of faux intimacy. It need not be written on fancy stationary or an expensive card — the three letters I have been cherishing were written on plain notebook paper! And a good letter is one that required the writer to find a stamp and an envelope and a postbox!” – Christopher Peterson, Ph.D.

In this age of sterile, digital correspondence, I think it’s time we all pick up a bona-fide pen and paper, to script a few meaningful words to those we hold dear, just as our grandmothers did for us in days gone by. I daresay it will bring some well-received sunshine to someone’s day!

~ Justina Dee

This is a post from the series I’m sharing called “31 Lessons from My Amish Family. Click here to read more! 

Interesting Links:

Scholars Mourn the Lost Art of Letterwriting

The Wall Street Journal on Letterwriting

The Joy of Receiving a Letter – written by a Postman in 1886

Emily Post on Letterwriting


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