Somewhere in a drawer or an album in your house are some letters that your parents wrote to each other years ago. Maybe from their courtship. Or maybe when they were separated by the war or work or school. Those letters are wonderful treasures.

Wouldn’t it be equally wonderful if your children had letters to cherish one day?

Technology may be taking away that gift. Today most of us use email and Facebook to communicate with family. That’s fun and fast but never lasting.  Saying I love you in an email is not like saying it in a letter. But a piece of paper, folded twice, and slipped into an envelope can become a keepsake.

But maybe you think, “How would I begin?” or “My kids see me on Facebook. I don’t need to write things down.” True, you don’t need to write a “Dear Diary…” letter, but you could establish a tradition by writing letters for special occasions. 

On a nephew’s birthday, you might write a letter sharing something about his mom or dad. On a granddaughter’s birthday you could include a memory of her as a toddler: “When you were two, and taking things apart and putting them back together, I remember thinking, ‘She’s going to be an engineer.’”

When you have visited family members, skip the email thank you and write a letter instead. Offer thanks for their hospitality but also add what you noticed—how good they are with their kids, the beauty in their home, the kindnesses, and the love. 

Other ways to build a letter-writing habit: When you give someone a book, include a note about why you chose this book for the recipient. When you send a gift, add a short letter about the occasion. Don’t be afraid to share something about yourself. If it’s a gift to a niece on her confirmation or Bat Mitzvah, tell her what you remember about that day in your life and the hope you have for her growing faith. When a letter accompanies a gift the letter is likely to last long after the gift is gone.

Sending a gift of money? Add a letter with your check. (Yes, a check. Venmo is no way to give a meaningful gift.)

One day you’ll be ready to give an heirloom. If you are giving your engagement ring, don’t just hand it over with, “This was my ring from Grampa.” Sit down and recall—in writing—how he proposed, and when you chose—or were surprised by —that ring. 

To make letter-writing easy, have supplies on hand. Get a set of good notepaper and coordinating envelopes and treat yourself to a supply of nice postage stamps, perhaps stamps with flowers, famous people, or hobbies. A friend taught me this: She chooses stamps to fit the person she’s writing to. You are more likely to write that letter if your supplies are lovely.

Maybe now is the time to give away the letters of your parents to a younger family member. Don’t just hand them over, write a letter to go with them. And add your thoughts on your family. Not all families were always happy—so it can be even more meaningful to say, “You know Grandma had many struggles and I struggled with her, but we have found a way to be stronger for it.”  

A handwritten letter is a blessing, a piece of history, and a prayer. Pick up your pen. Share a piece of your heart. Your words on paper are a gift.

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