Michael T. Dolan

Writings, Reflections, and Commentaries

The Great Letter Revival Movement

We invite you to join us in the growing movement to bring back good, old-fashioned, letter-writing! The following commentary describes the movement, followed by some links to help you join the revival!

“The Great Letter Revival Movement”

By Michael T. Dolan

The Great Letter Revival MovementAn unspoken, hopeful moment in my day, and I daresay in most people’s, occurs with the simple act of reaching into the mailbox. Somewhere deep in our subconscious is a deep longing for a pleasant surprise to either begin or end the day with, depending on your street’s spot on the mail carrier’s rotation. Something entirely unexpected — a letter.

And yet that hidden expectation is tucked so deep that we only recognize it when it is fulfilled, when and if that time ever arrives. More often than not, our hand reaches into the mailbox like the mechanical arm dropping down for the stuffed animal, only to see the prized Scooby Doo or Spongebob slip away as the iron arm loses grasp of the plush pelt. Alas, why did I waste 50 cents on such a hopeless endeavor? Or rather, why did I hope for a moment that a letter would reside within the darkness that is my mailbox?

For most then, reaching into the mailbox reveals much the same: a Clipper magazine peppered with moldly-basement professionals and carcinogenic sun-tanning salons, some unwanted credit card solicitations, a sad “Have you seen us?” postcard, and perhaps the remaining bill or two that isn’t delivered online.

What a lonely and unfulfilling mailbox. It is a sad commentary on the way we live our lives. And no, I’m not talking technology here. E-mail and online technologies are tremendous assets to the enhancement of modern communication. For someone who avoids talking on the phone, e-mail (not to mention Caller ID) is often a wonderful — and many times — quicker substitution. Technology, I contend, is not killing the letter.

The culprit is us: our “hectic” lives and packed calendars, our to-do lists and the race to accomplish as much as we can before night’s end. In other words, our priorities.

I daresay we’re entering an age where the art of writing a letter is quickly vanishing. Sure, a card will occasionally show up in our mailbox, but Hallmark leaves a bit to be desired, as do the boasting year-in-review letters sent in bulk during the Christmas season. If we don’t engage in letter-writing today, do we really think the next generation will take the time to sit down and write a letter?

I must first disclose that I am partial to letters. When my oldest brother spent his first summer down the shore and then lived away at college, I started writing him letters. As someone who enjoyed writing, it was a good opportunity to learn the craft of writing, and find new ways to poke fun at my brother at the same time. I believe the first line went something like:

Dear Bill,

Are you cool? If so, let me know.

As evidenced above, I had much to learn about writing, but at the age of 12, it was a wonderful discovery for me. Almost two decades have passed, with hundreds of letters in the mix, and I credit the letter (and its oftentimes unfortunate recipients) with teaching me how to write.

The letter is a challenge to write primarily because it means you must wrestle yourself away from the activities of the day, sit down, and contemplate. Yes, get away. Yes, sit down. Yes, contemplate. It means putting things aside and recognizing the importance of both reflecting on one’s life and one’s relationship with another. Not only is this important, it is central to healthy living and meaningful relationships.

If you were to take the time to sit down and write a letter, to whom would you write? Your father or mother? Sister or brother? Spouse or child? Uncle or friend? Now imagine that person reaching into his or her mailbox next week and discovering among the pile of circulars and catalogs an old-fashioned stamped letter. From you!

Shared experiences are the buds that begin any relationship. Our memory of those experiences, and our shared reflection and commentary on them, help those buds grow. As such, letters have the power to enter deeper and more fully into a relationship with one another — even if it is a letter to the spouse or child you live with day in and day out. It is in moments of reflection and in opening ourselves to others that we come to truly engage in communication.

And why stop there? What’s to say we can’t write a letter to that deceased grandparent, parent, sibling or friend? Writing a letter to the spirits still within our lives is a tangible way of continuing the conversation. Perhaps the conversation ended a bit abruptly. Or on a bad note. Putting pen to paper and taking up the conversation again could prove to be a life-changing exercise. As such, it is one certainly worth pursuing.

A challenge, then: participate in the Great Letter Revival Movement. No, it doesn’t exist yet, but with your participation it can become a reality. Take the time to write a letter to that friend or family member and see what comes of it. If you’re feeling timid, download the special Great Letter Revival Movement stationary found below (or print out this commentary from the Harrisburg Patriot-News), thus avoiding your appearing the eccentric weirdo who one day randomly chooses to write a friend.

Who knows where the Great Letter Revival Movement will take us. Lives could be changed, relationships deepened, and mailboxes brought to life.

All it takes is a little time, a little courage, andĀ 44 cents.