Top 25 things vanishing from America: #9 -- Hand-written letters

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This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.

In 2006, the Radicati Group estimated that, worldwide, 183 billion emails were sent per day. Two million each second. By November of 2007, an estimated 3.3 billion Earthlings owned cell phones, and 80% of the world's population had access to cell phone coverage. In 2004, half a trillion text messages were sent, and the number has no doubt increased exponentially since then. So where amongst this gorge of gabble is there room for the elegant, polite hand-written letter?

While precise statistics aren't available, common opinion strongly suggests the hand-written note has become the dodo of the communications species. If so, I'm saddened. The very act of writing by hand slows the mind, forces it into a more contemplative state in which precisely chosen words convey nuances of emotion that could never be captured in a quick "Wassup?"

Certainly, the barriers for a rebirth of handwritten notes are significant; postage, stationary cost, the lack of immediacy, and the time and care required in its preparation. For me, an additional hurdle is my hen-scratch penmanship.

Nonetheless, nothing expresses respect for another like a handwritten letter, and no love e-mail, text message or cell phone call will ever be carefully bundled into a memory box and savored for years to come. In a world that thrives on acceleration, the handwritten letter calls us to a time more deliberate, elegant, and gracious.

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