It was not so long ago that the job of a postman entailed more than delivering bills and the packages from our latest online shopping binge. This was someone who used to carry the most intimate thoughts of thousands of people in a bag over his shoulders.
I’m not one to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Never have been. I’ve always preferred to value the moments that are unique to our relationship – the day we met, our first kiss, our wedding. But that doesn’t make me oblivious to the act of giving to your loved one. In those instances there is the occasional gift exchanged between us. Just like you, I’ll find myself browsing through lists of ideas featured on my favourite online retailer hoping some algorithms will give me the right answer, or searching for the right colour of whatever gadget they’ve asked for and that I’m sure will make them happy to receive. And don’t get me wrong, it is a great feeling to unwrap a package and discover what hides beneath it. But that joy soon wears out.
Now rewind to just a couple of decade ago and us running down the stairwell or driveway after we heard the postman pass by. Whose letter might we get that day? Who might have taken the time to think about us and share something personal?
Most of the letter I still possess are stacked away in a box wrapped with colourful satin ribbons. They are, perhaps, my most precious belongings. Sometimes, I go back to them. In an instant, I am laughing again, I am smiling, I am crying. I remember the love, the dedication, the gratitude between the author and me. I embark on a journey to the past, indulge in those treasured words, and savour the moment once again.
And of course, I am not the only one. Letters have helped thousands of men and women remain sane in the trenches, giving them hope, reminding them what made them human in the first place. They have been the content of books revealing the deep secrets of some of the greatest minds of our times – Beauvoir, Camus, Churchill, Austen, Kerouac, Freud, to name a few… The cathartic nature behind writing makes letters the most candid means of expression.
You may tell your loved one how you care about them every day – and you should keep doing so. But nothing beats the joy of reading those words on a well-crafted handwritten letter.
The absence of judging eyes creates a safe place for us to be honest and truly open up about our most cherished feelings. We break down the walls of shame, prejudice, fear and self-censorship to truly give, share, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
If time is the highest currency in today’s world, then why not give your Valentine’s your most precious asset – your time. That’s the true value of a letter. For a while, your time is not yours anymore – it’s theirs.
You’ll sit down, contemplate their face for a moment – is it their smile, their wink, their foolish face you like the most? You’ll remember what made you fall in love in the first place, what they were wearing, where they were standing, the first time they whispered in your ear. You’ll choose your words wisely because you want them to understand exactly what your love is all about. Your thoughts will be pondered with care because you’ll want to see that smile, that wink, that foolish face back again. Perhaps you’ll want them to shed a tear or two. That’s ok – we all love a good cry.
You’ll opt for your best pen (was it a present from them?) and special paper, soft. Who knows, you might even spray a bit of your cologne or perfume on top for that special touch. Your handwriting will be impeccable, at its best. You’ll probably write a draft or two before the final one on the good paper. No, you’re not a scrooge. You just want to make sure there’s no striking through – it should look like all those beautiful thoughtful words came out naturally, written as eloquently as your thoughts poured in.
You’ll probably still browse through the special Valentine’s section of your go-to online retailer and buy this year’s must-have, but it won’t matter anymore.
You have written them a letter. You will have given them your time, your dedication, your effort, your soul. And that will suffice, because, make no mistake, diamonds may be forever, but letters are the true jewels of the heart.