This post was originally published in the Spring of 2011. It still applies 100%. Not a single word was edited.
Technology and advancement is inevitable. I can present a coupon delivered in real-time to get a free treat. The only limits on smart phones are those imposed by the carrier’s billing department. GPS and ‘geo tags’ even allow us to become the mayor of 7-Eleven with the push of a button!
I could probably count on one hand how many times in the last year I opened a print-based phone book or walked into a post office. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I love technology, but we have become very reliant on it for our everyday lives. Leave your phone at the house and suddenly you find yourself unable to tell the time, patting your pocket or rummaging through your purse out of habit, and feeling lost (literally) without your ‘find the nearest bathroom’ app. Almost our entire life seems to be stored on a half inch memory card.
In this time of instant gratification, we take too much for granted. Take, for instance, writing. When was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter? When was the last time you wrote, period? When you did, was ‘lol’ or a ‘brb’ on the page? Texting and tweeting has made us… lazy. There, I said it.
Think about it. I didn’t know the internet existed until college, and I was born in 1976! Think about your parents. Even worse, think about your grandparents. Not too many of them online is there? If they are, I would wager that they sure aren’t Tweeting and Facebooking… at least not with any regularity. (Let face it. They probably have more important regularity problems, right?)
Think a misplaced phone has you feeling disconnected? How do you think the older generations must feel? Personally, I’m not that old and I prefer email, but I can tell you from my experiences being deployed that regular, stamped mail is still a precious, valuable commodity. Many a day has passed that I watched my Soldiers look to see if they had mail. When they did, their whole attitude took a major upswing. The opposite happened when they did not. I’m guessing nowadays grandma and grandpa’s mailboxes aren’t overflowing either.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Remember pen pals? They used to be a common thing. I never had one, but I knew plenty of kids who did. It was exciting for them to check the mail every day, looking for that letter from their friend, wherever they were.
In an effort to ensure that my kids understand the way things used to be, we started doing the pen pal thing again. Who is my youngest daughter’s pen pal? It’s my Grandmother. To my knowledge, she doesn’t have a cell phone. I don’t know that she spends any real time on a computer. But I know that she loves to send and receive letters. That was all there was at one point in time—in her time.
How awesome is it that a great-grandchild can share a common experience with her elder? How incredible is it to see her little face beam with excitement when there is a real, hand written note of love from someone who cannot be there to share her daily accomplishments? It’s priceless.
Maybe we should all take pause and remember that there are others who have been left behind in the silicon dust of advancement. Even if your little ones can’t write, there’s a refrigerator somewhere that I would bet my laptop has space for some homemade macaroni art. You’re willing to pay a hellacious cell phone bill every month to stay connected. Do you think you could spare a couple of quarters for a stamp that could connect two people on an even deeper level?
Instead of asking you a question, I present a challenge to you. Have your kids (or you) sit down, write an old fashioned, snail mail letter (or picture) and send it to a grandparent or an aunt or uncle. Walk them through the process. Show them what a real address line looks like. Have them lick the stamp (or are they all stickers now?) Then come back in a few weeks and tell me if you think both sides appreciated it. I’m curious to see how many comments I will get.
Google postcard used under creative commons guidelines. Image retrieved from https://www.labnol.org/internet/google-postcard-search/8085/