NYT Runner Up for First Prize

In “You Should Start Writing Letters,” Jordan Salama relates how he finds Zoom and texts “emotionally draining” and that writing letters soothes him.

People are relying more on FaceTime and texting, during these modern times, ignoring the lost art of handwriting. “It’s a waste of time,” insisted my little cousin, who grew up with an iPad in her hands. “No one uses such an old-fashioned way to communicate, except when you are sending postcards to your teachers on Teacher’s Day.” But why is being “old-fashioned” not a good thing?

The last time that I held a letter in my hands was when I was back in my mom’s hometown in rural Shanxi with my grandparents. In the 1950s, their jobs separated them. The only way for my grandparents to communicate  was to write letters. Now my widowed grandfather has two stacks of them under their bed.  The fading color of the ink and the paper turning yellow are fragile testaments to the years gone by. No other form of communication could be so tangible.

The pandemic gives us time to sit down. Fewer external things hurry us. As the 20th century painter and poet Mu Xin put it, “Days were slower in the past. Carriage, horse, and mail did not come fast.” Writing letters allows us to experience the slow current of time. Letters hold only the most valuable moments that we want to share, since they take time and effort to create and send. 

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