You reach into your mailbox, pull out the mail and begin absentmindedly flipping through the bills and junk mail. But then you spot it. A colorful envelope, familiar handwriting. Checking the return address, you carefully open it up and begin to read. All thoughts of bills and junk mail float away as you savor the words.
One of my favorite traditions during the Christmas season is the sending and receiving of cards and letters. Checking the mail each day becomes a joy due to the possibility of finding something personal mixed in with usual stuff. Whether it is a card or letter, it lets us know that someone is thinking of us. Extra joy comes when there is a personalized note included.
Letters for those who are alone
Christmas, of course, isn’t the only time of the year for cards and letters. This simple act of kindness can take place year-round. With so many isolated due to the virus, sending someone a letter can deliver love and joy to those who are alone and lonely.
Our adult daughter keeps the joy going after the holidays by sending out New Year’s cards with a personal note included. I know all the time and effort she puts into each one and look forward to ours showing up in our mailbox each year.
This is not an exercise limited to adults. Even children can create, draw, and write cards as well. Our grandchildren make us handmade birthday and Christmas cards each year. Those cards and letters are a treasure to my husband and me.
Since it is getting to be more unusual to receive handwritten cards and letters, imagine what a pleasant surprise it will be for the person receiving an unexpected piece of personal mail among the mix.
Sending letters and cards is good for you
What I have discovered, though, is that sending a card or letter is not only good for the receiver but the sender as well. I used to attend a women’s Sunday School class taught by my sister, Peggy. If someone we knew was under the weather or experiencing some type of difficulty, we would reach out to them by sending a card. The class had a box of blank cards. One was chosen and sent around the room for everyone to express their prayers and well wishes or simply sign their name. It was a simple act of kindness that let the person know they were loved and missed. It brought joy to us knowing that we could send a bit of joy to others.
A good friend of mine, Pam, and I came up with a plan one day. We decided to write letters to those who blessed us or made a difference in our lives in one way or another. We were to let them know what a blessing they had been and thank them for it. Often, those to whom we wrote had no idea about their impact on our lives. It was fun, but we only did it for a season. A short season. Life got busy, and we eventually stopped writing. When I look back on that time, I’m glad we sent the letters we did.
Write as you can when you are able
If handwriting is difficult, try simply adding a line to a ready-made card that expresses your heart and wishes. Or possibly ask someone to write while you dictate your thoughts. If the person you are writing to has dementia, a short note that can be read over and over might be better than a long one. When we were caring for my Mama, we would write her a short note to tell her who she was, who we were and, that she was loved. She used to read it over and over – and over. It helped her feel more secure, less lost. It assured her she was safe.
Whether you are writing to a loved one or someone you do not know, such as a nursing home resident, be assured that it will certainly brighten their day. Griswold Home Care has a couple of sample letters to provide writing inspiration. If you have children wishing to write, Rozzy Career Adventures offers a fill-able template for ‘Writing a Letter to a Senior Citizen’ that can be filled in and printed out. They include pictures to color as well.
Handwritten letters tell the recipient more than the words on the page. It shows that you put some time and effort into this endeavor. There is also a cost to the stamps. The cost seems relatively inexpensive when you consider all the joy the letter will bring. It is a way of maintaining a connection to others. Cards and letters are a gift that keeps on giving as they are often re-read and displayed. They are also a visual reminder that someone was thinking about them and took the time to send it. When a person reads the letter it becomes a cherished reminder that somebody took the time to let them know they are loved.
Has your world been touched by dementia?
My book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find joy on your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook