I have a Google alert set for my company name, The Lost Arts, so that I know if someone out in cyberspace is talking about me. I receive many alerts, none of which have actually been about me. Yet. Instead, they are for things as various and sundry as “The lost art of political skulduggery,” “The lost art of selling seeds,” and “The Lost Art of Luggage Labels.” But recently, I received two alerts that made me stop and think. One was “The lost art of letter-writing,” which was followed by “The Lost Art of Thank You.” And I had to reluctantly accept that letter writing and gracious common courtesy seem to indeed be things of the past, or lost arts.
Back before the digital age, letter writing was commonplace. As kids, we always sent handwritten thank-you notes to grandparents and aunts and uncles for Christmas and birthday gifts. When I lived overseas my junior year in high school, and when I attended college a thousand miles from home, letters were the primary form of communication. Today, I love going through stacks of old letters that I sent my parents, or that friends sent me. They transport me to another place and time, and bring to mind events that I had completely forgotten. I also have letters my maternal grandfather wrote my grandmother when they were “courting,” and that my paternal grandfather sent my grandmother and their children when he was teaching far from home. These written histories are more precious than gold.
It pains me that my children won’t have these written records of family history from their childhood and young adulthood. Kids today don’t know how to write old-fashioned letters. In fact, many can’t even address an envelope! Letter writing went the way of the 8-track tape. Instead of putting thought (and heart) into written correspondence as pen is put to paper, communication is now in text bites of abbreviations and misspelled words. To go back through text messages and emails ten years from now would be an impossible undertaking given the sheer volume. It’s a history and recollection that just won’t exist. Oh, what we’ve lost!
My children do still hand-write thank-you notes to their friends for birthday gifts, but they are in the minority. My son once received an emailed thank-you that was sent, en masse, to everyone who had attended the party. It simply said, generically, “Thank you for the gift.” There was nothing personal about it. I still can’t decide whether this was any better than no thank-you at all, which seems to be the norm these days. Is it just lack of manners, or lack of appreciation due to too much access and entitlement?
So how lovely it was to receive a handwritten thank-you note recently from someone I have never even met! As a member of The Artisan Group, I participated in a group gifting to Academy Award winning actress Renée Zellweger. She received my Champagne Kisses soap and a handwritten note from me, along with many other handcrafted pieces and notes from my fellow members. And then she took a moment from her busy schedule to hand-write a thank-you note to the group to express her gratitude. Maybe not all is lost after all.