By Sara Katherine Johnson
I believe in writing letters.
In class I’m usually surrounded by fingers typing hurriedly against plastic. Walking to and from class means that I’m navigating between waves of people concerned about texting in the 15 minutes before more classes start.
Often the attention we give to our gadgets means we’re stealing attention from people near us. Are we fully paying attention to our professors? Are we listening to the friend next to us on the way to class as we text someone else?
“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Winston Churchill delivered that line decades ago. He was talking of governments and the men that fill them. However, the parallels to technology are clear. How much do the tools we use turn innovation back on us to become a mirror of values and habits?
Laptops, tablets, smartphones, cars, calculators — what do they reflect back on us?
They say we value time saved. All the apps and synchronizing point to appreciating volume of output. Thinking minds are praised in theory. Active bodies are praised in reality. The more the better. Be direct, fast and efficient.
One way we can slow down and regain intentional time for others is to write letters. I love the roll of a ball-point pen over paper. I appreciate its glide, flexibility of ink and the occasional smear under my eager hand. It is messy and satisfying.
My grandmother in Arizona writes to me constantly. She has a steady hand for cursive and details to fill pages. In each letter she fills me in on what has happened since her last letter.
When I write her back I have to sit down and think on what we last talked about. It is a time to also reflect on my progress in life and on my relationship with her.
The reason the courtship between Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning is romantic is because they exchanged more than 3,000 letters. Most of them are housed in Baylor’s Armstrong Browning Library.
Robert fell in love with Elizabeth’s mind before ever even meeting her. Letters allow that. It’s a dialogue that can be saved and held.
To create something physically, a letter in this case, is a gift. It is beautiful. It honors the worth of other people and engages them. The pen is a tool of labor and patience. It allows for unity.
Every year I aim to be so disciplined that I can keep up with responding to my grandmother’s letters. It would be more convenient for myself to shoot her an email. I often teeter between keyboards and pens. In the end I feel closer to her by writing something I know she will hold in a few days. It is a physical piece of my love.
There is a time and place for everything. Technological advances are great. I use my phone just as much as the next person. I simply think there is value still in crafting letters.
Do not stress because there is no spell check on paper. Do not hold back because the white space is waiting to be filled. Start small, a postcard perhaps from the Armstrong Browning gift shop and write a letter to someone. I guarantee it will make their day.
Sara Katherine Johnson is a senior journalism and professional writing double major from Katy. She is a reporter for the Lariat.