Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Dying Act

Over the summer I remember sitting in traffic with my family listening to an NPR story about the elimination of cursive writing in grade schools. The conversation was between a journalist and a teacher in Alabama talking about how the use of cursive writing was dying and that there was no longer a need for it with this generation (or future generations) of kids. It made me sad. Really sad actually, and then my mind drifted to when I was in 1st grade writing 100 lines of "I will not talk in class" on the chalk board as punishment for doing so. All in cursive writing of course. I thought, "Damn, my kid will never experience that kind of cruel discipline."

It got me thinking about how skills that used to be a foundation of how we do things now are slowly going extinct and much like what you learn in the Lorax, it's up to US (yes you too) to keep those things alive. 

I'm a huge fan of the United Postal Service! While going to the actual post office may sometimes be un-pleasant, I've always seen mail as a sort of surprise and delight. As an adult mail is never fun. Between bills (if you still get paper bills), solicitations and the random pieces of mail for the previous tenant, nothing about it is ever really fun. However, getting mail out of the blue for personal reasons is a pleasant surprise. Hence, "surprise and delight". 

But there's more to it.

While a small note in the mail may not seem like a big thing, that's where some people have it wrong. It's a huge thing. In our world today it's so easy for us to shoot a text to someone when you want to say "hey" or "thanks". That dialogue can happen in the matter of seconds. Sending something in the mail though takes some thought and effort that really shows someone why it's meaningful. It's first the thought of sending a handwritten note to someone, but then it's the steps of buying a card, thinking about what to write (and we're talking a lot of thought cause it's straight up final draft when inks on paper), actually carefully writing it out, getting stamps and physically dropping it off to get it mailed. It's a lot right? A lot that goes into one small something, but that small something speaks volumes to the recipient.  

I honestly can't remember when I fell in love with the art of writing letters. Maybe in middle school when I would write 100 notes a day and pass them in class, but as a parent now I realize that my kid may never grow up appreciating or truly understanding the art of writing letters unless I show him. So I decided that this year is the year to begin ingraining it in his head. He's an early stage writer whose got his alphabets down and spells simple words, but it's just enough to get him started. While his version of "letters" may not be more than him drawing hearts and his name, I'm trying to teach Liam that your words don't have to mean much, but that the act itself can speak louder.

So sure, it's way easier to lean on technology these days to tell someone you're thinking about them, but sometimes you need to continue practicing less relevant skills (like cursive writing) to keep that form of art alive!

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