Don’t you love it when you get a letter in the post?
Under my bed is a box. In the box are hundreds of letters written by dozens of girls. The letters are tied into bundles. This bundle of letters is from Anna. That bundle of letters is from Sarah. This friendship dates from 1999. That friendship dates from 2007. This girl I met in Texas when my family was on holiday in America. That girl I’ve never met, although we live in the same country. This girl and I talked about modesty and courtship. That girl and I talked about terrorism and recession. There are almost as many wedding invitations as bundles of letters now — and birth announcements too.
Do you remember when you had fifty pen-pals and wrote twenty-page letters to all of them — or knew a girl who did? Pen-pal questionnaires aside, real friendships were forged via the pen-pal ads in homemade magazines and, of course, pages and pages of handwritten letters. Now we’re older, it’s harder to maintain those friendships. Staying in touch — in a real, meaningful way — is important. Balancing work and study and life (not to mention husbands and babies) with letters, or even emails, is a real challenge.
Faithfulness is an attribute of God (Corinthians 1:9) and a fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). We reflect the heart of God when we cultivate faithfulness in our friendships. As long as a friendship exists, it’s a privilege (and hopefully a pleasure too) to take the time to nurture and grow it faithfully.
We should, however, recognise that some friendships are for a season. When that season is over, it’s okay to let the friendship go, to let the friend go. I don’t just stop writing to an old friend, but I don’t keep all the letters I received from a friend who hasn’t written to me since we were twelve, and I don’t think, “She ruined our friendship when she went to college and got too busy to write!”
Your words in your letters may have an impact you never dreamed of and they are out of your control as soon as they are out of your hands. They may encourage or discourage your friend — build her up or tear her down. They may be kept in a shoebox and be read by her daughter someday. Be honest. Be kind. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want your daughter to read someday if she happened to meet your friend and read your letters that have been treasured for years.
Ideas for Staying in Touch
- Use notelets to write notes to your friends. They’re quicker to fill than whole pages of paper. And they say, “I care!”
- When you take a holiday, buy some postcards and send them to friends, with a note on the back. This can be expensive! But it works.
- Even now and then, when you can, send a little something with a note or a letter — a teabag or a bookmark.
Ideas for Writing Quick-but-Satisfying Letters
- Your friends would rather get a short letter every few months than a long letter every few years. Focus on writing often, if little. Make staying in touch — rather than writing twenty-page letters — your goal.
- You don’t have to answer every point in your friend’s letters. Choose what seem to be the most important or interesting points. Invite them to write back to you with anything you missed.
- Likewise, choose a few things from your life that you really want to share with your friends. You don’t need to tell them about all the books you read recently! Let them know about the ones you really enjoyed, or think they may enjoy too.
When I write a letter to a friend, I try to remember that my goals are to bless my friend, to nurture our friendship and to glorify God. I try to write a letter worth reading. I try to make it, if possible, a thing of beauty and worth:
- By using a nice card or notepaper.
- By writing it by hand or using a nice font on the computer or by simply typing and printing a neat letter.
- By writing good words, kind words, pleasant words.
- By including the thoughts and wisdom of others such as a quote from a book I’m reading or a verse from the Bible.
- By doodling things in the margin. I doodle flowers and hearts more than anything else, but I once received a letter from a friend that included a doodle she had drawn of Mansfield Park and Fanny Price. We were in the middle of discussing the Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and her doodles were a lovely, fun gift in the midst of her words.
- Decorating the edges and the back of the envelope, so the address is clear and unobscured on the front, but the envelope is a sort of introduction to the gift of the letter.
- Using pretty or unusual stamps.
- For more ideas, check out “My Top Ten Tips for Keeping in Touch the Old-Fashioned Way” from Jessica White.
I know you’re busy. Me too. Most of my letters begin with an apology for not writing for ages. It’s hard to pause in the midst of the bustle of life. It’s hard to invest precious time in the writing and posting of letters. Facebook is a fun way to stay in touch with real friends and virtual friends. Blogs are great way to “find” old friends and see what’s happening in their lives now. A letter, however, is different. It’s special. It’s a gift to your friend across the miles and the years.
Your friend will love it when she gets a letter in the post.