Receiving a letter can be quite a rare thing these days. Most of the post we receive at home is promotional leaflets or bills. Even Christmas cards don’t come in the quantities they used to.
There are many reasons. The instant connection of text, email and twitter has brought the world closer together, but sometimes ironically further apart.
There is a sense that with a short text a connection has been made, but in reality it has just scratched the surface and the opportunity for an in-depth and perhaps more meaningful communication has been lost. The measured and descriptive nature of a letter, long or short, can be a life enhancer and sometimes even a life changer. The love letters between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII chart the beginning of an affair that would bring the reformation to England and ultimately death to Anne. The world’s most expensive letter – sold for nearly £4,000,000 at auction – was sent by Francis Crick in the 1950s to his son and explains, with helix diagram, the principle of DNA. Other letters may never be read by anyone but the recipient or close family, but are no less important as in time they may even become a crucial part of our understanding of the past.
I recently read a letter my mother now owns, written in 1917 to my grandmother from her new mother-in-law. It is sweet and charming, handwritten and full of kind words for a new bride whose husband is fighting thousands of miles away in Greece. There is concern for Tom, my grandad, mixed with the everyday chatter with a familiar and comforting ring to it, even though it is nearly a century old. Proof perhaps people don’t really change, even if the times we live in do.
I still treasure letters my dad sent to me at university. I was in South Wales and it felt so far away at times – that’ll teach me to choose a place because Dylan Thomas was born there and Richard Burton hailed from just down the road. The sight of a letter in the halls of residence pigeonhole was always a joy and one time even a Snoopy bean bag toy made its way to Swansea in a jiffy bag.
Letters are still important – even if they take the form of an email or Facebook post rather than paper and pen.
Communication in all its forms matters, which is one of the reasons I love to visit schools, businesses and individuals to share the story of the hospice and the work that goes on there every day. It’s also smashing to be invited to fundraising days, such as the recent one at the Yorkshire Bank. Thank you to the team who wore hospice T-shirts for the day and baked brilliantly, raising £312, which will be match-funded by the bank.
Mel Hewitt, Community fundraiser, St John’s Hospice, Balby