When I was growing up, we passed notes in school. Here’s how it worked – you had a clipboard with your school work on top and ongoing note to your friend underneath. You’d stealthily write when you could – during class when the teacher wasn’t looking, between class, or at lunch. Once you finished, you folded the note in a clever way (who remembers how to fold a good note? I do!) and passed it to your friend.
I have fond memories of receiving notes from my friends in school. It was something to look forward to and a way to communicate during the school day. I remember one day in middle school math class I was writing a note to my friend Amy about our teacher’s shirt choice. If my memory serves me correctly, Mr. Rash’s shirt had a zippered neckline that was not in sync with middle school style. “What is he wearing?”, I pondered in writing to Amy. I folded up my note and wrote Amy’s name on the outside and asked the person next to me to pass it to her.
Mr. Rash was trying to teach us math and my note crossing the room interrupted him, so he took it. So there I sat, sweating the rest of class, terrified that Mr. Rash would discover that I didn’t like his shirt. He must have had a little compassion for me because he gave my note back to me at the end of class without reading it – thank heavens- and told me to not pass notes during his math class again. I never did.
Today it’s not handwritten notes but texts, Snapchats, and Instagram messages. My kids were born into this digital world and know no different. They have group text threads with who knows how many people. They are kept up-to-date on the happenings in their friends’ lives by filtered photos and short video clips. I am all for technology and use/need my phone regularly, but I’m here to take a stand for the handwritten note. Our phones transmit messages in real time and that’s so handy, but what I love about a handwritten note is how it slows us down. Slow to think through what it is you want to say. Slow to write it out in your own unique handwriting. Slow to address it, seal it, mail it. Slow for it to arrive in the hands of the recipient. The slowing down makes the communication a bit more sacred.
And what a gift it is to open your mailbox and see an envelope addressed to you in the handwriting of someone you adore. I can think of prominent people in my youth and remember their handwriting as clearly as I remember their faces.
I spent my summers growing up at our family’s lake cottage in Massachusetts. No phone, no TV. Letters were how I stayed in touch with my friend back home. And oh, the delight to receive them! The anticipation as I approached the mailbox! The joy as I opened the letter and read the news from my best friends at home.
Whether it’s a thank you note, a note of encouragement, or just a note to say hello, I incorporate handwritten notes into my daily business life. Relationships are at the heart of my work, and to me, there’s not a more authentic way to communicate.
I also observe how handwriting is an important aspect of many of my clients’ work life. Bluegrass Hemp Oil sends a handwritten note with every customer order — a thoughtful way to show a customer appreciation for their purchase (pictured right). Revival 356 has jars of sharpened #2 pencils for guests to take notes and record their thoughts (pictured top right). Cane Creek Farm writes out what’s in their weekly CSA shares on a chalkboard every week – way nicer than a computer print out (pictured above).
How do you incorporate handwritten communication into your life- both business and personal? I’d love to hear. And let’s not let this priceless form of communication be lost on the next generation.