Have you planned to write a letter but kept putting it off? Then when you really began to think seriously about it, the delay may have stretched into weeks, perhaps months. No wonder your letter may then have begun with the apology: “Sorry it has been so long”!
You are not alone in such circumstances. Doubtless you have received letters from others, apologizing for delay or a long silence. Others realized just as you did that a reply should have been written more promptly. And the longer the delay the more awkward the situation may become, so much so that people have been known to give up the idea of replying. Why is there this common tendency to put the matter off?
Many matters demand our time and attention. But we do make time for vital activities such as our job, eating, shopping and each night’s sleep. So, it is often a matter of making time to reply to friends whose letters we have appreciated.
Why We Write
Perhaps it will help in coming to grips with this problem if we consider some of the reasons for writing letters to friends and relatives. In earlier times families used to live in the same immediate neighborhood. There was not the same need for letter writing. But today the situation is quite different. It is not at all uncommon for members of the same family to be widely scattered across the country, or even to distant lands.
Is there not a moral obligation to be concerned about one another, parent for child, child for parent? Surely lack of interest in such circumstances might be construed as being lack of natural affection!
But even apart from any idea of obligation, there is the distinct pleasure one experiences when ministering to the needs of another. It is even more satisfying than receiving a gift from someone. Your friends and relatives would surely be upbuilt by receiving some evidence of your well-being, a cheerful, newsy letter from your pen. Do you doubt it? Then just think of your own experience.
Few things are so delightfully received as a fine letter. There is usually a pleasurable excitement about it. It makes us happy, does it not, happy that someone has thought of us? And there is keen expectation as we break the seal. Up to that point it is a kind of mystery. What shall we find inside? It may be someone’s interesting experiences, that one’s expression of love for us, or an expression of kindness and thoughtfulness.
Surely, then, we would like to be the cause of someone else’s gaining the same excitement and pleasure from receiving a letter!
What We Can Do
Even if you are extra busy, is there not something you can do to keep in touch with friends and relatives? What about sending a lettercard or a picture postcard? You might even send just a short note. No need to write a lengthy letter. Indeed, lengthy letters can be tiring, especially if the people to whom you are writing are also busy. The book Along the Road expresses it this way:
“There are many people who practically never write to old friends, because they have a feeling that if they write at all they must write at length. But that is a great mistake; and by this indolent reticence many good ties are broken. The point is the letter, not the length or the literary quality of the letter. And it is pitiful to think that a few words scribbled on a scrap of paper three or four times in a year might save a good friendship perishing listlessly from lack of nutriment.”
No, there is no need to wait until you have enough material to fill a long letter. Indeed, it may well be that the person who awaits your letter is primarily interested in knowing that you are doing well, physically and spiritually. So, why not let him know soon? And, by all means, express your interest in knowing how that correspondent is faring.
Friendships are precious. Friends are keen to know and to communicate to each other the events and developments that affect them. Children and parents have a close bond. Youths away from home should surely want to know how their parents are faring. And parents can write good counsel to the younger generation.
Writing Can Be Enjoyable
Writing does not have to be a bore or a chore. You can jot down on a memo pad from time to time the things you want to include in your next letter. Perhaps you have some funny story to relate or some experience. Experiences that bring you pleasure will also be enjoyed by others. Determine, too, that your letter will be something encouraging.
And you can always reminisce. That draws friends closer. If you are writing to parents, it would be fine to let them know you have not forgotten the many interesting details of life at home—that plant in the living room that mother was so proud of or that cherry tree in full bloom just outside the kitchen window. Is Dad still working on that project in the basement? Is it now young brother’s turn to do the jobs around the house? Your asking shows that you care.
Ja, a letter can brighten someone else’s day, just as it does yours. Whenever you are inclined to postpone letter writing overlong, just think of all the good your brief letter can accomplish. Try to avoid having to start your letters with “Sorry it has been so long.” Instead, write soon!
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