My mother was a champion letter and card writer. She never missed a birthday, anniversary, or holiday. She wrote me frequently and at length.
After Lillian Groothuis died in 2010, I began writing cards and letters more frequently. I did not write enough cards or letters for my mother or grandmother Groothuis, who was also an admirable correspondent. Now I write many souls frequently, some of whom I don't know or barely know. Some are in my inner circle of correspondence.
After writing a dear friend's father, I learned that he read my card to his daughter over the phone and remarked that I should write a book on how to write a short, but meaningful card. I don't think I could write a whole book on it, but here are a few notions on that theme.
- Writing cards is a way to re-humanize a de-humanized culture. Too much is too automatic and impersonal. When you pen (and I mean pen) a card, it bears the mark of you—your handwriting, your choice of ink and pen. A human, you, emerges from the think lagoon of the pre-set, the template, the standard.
- I often pray, "Lord, who needs a card?" God answers, and I write many cards to many people on many themes. Someone needs a card because she is lonely or suffering or both. Someone may need a card because they have a gift that is largely ignored. I write to commend them, to recognize another gift to man from God.
- I usually write when I have time to reflect on what I should write. I don't usually dash them off. Too much is already dashed off in our hurry sickened world.
- I commiserate, thinking through the life of the one to whom I am writing. How can I speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to another person made in God's image and likeness? What do they need to hear? What might they hear from me that few others have told them?
- I reflect on how Scripture might speak to them. I may quote a verse from the Bible or write some thing like, See Ecclesiastes 9:11, or some other verse. I want biblical truth and wisdom to inform what I write. There is already enough bullshit out there.
- I often end with a biblical blessing, such as 2 Corinthians 13:14 or one improvised on biblical themes.
- I write cards of condolence as often as I can. This is an art. I endeavor to enter their sorry, to restate what they might be experiencing. I do not offer cheap consolation. I lament with one who has lost a friend or relation or who is suffering ill health.
- I often want to teach through my cards, so I recommend books to read.
- I often decorate my cards in sometimes silly ways. Jazz stickers are cool, as are insects. This adds a personal, and for me, a quirky touch.
Consider joining me in my effort to re-humanize the world through the simple, but soulful, act of writing cards and letters.
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, where he has served since 1993. He is the author of thirteen books, including Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Philosophy in Seven Sentences, and, most recently, Walking Through Twilight: A Wife's Illness--A Philosopher's Lament.
Keep up with him at https://douglasgroothuis.com