As the holiday season begins, it is a perfect time for reflection. Despite the tumultuous year we have had to navigate, we should inventory things for which we are grateful. Once done, we should express this gratitude, and there are multiple ways to do so. One, is fast becoming a lost art – note writing. We have become dependent on electronic communication. Yes, there are certainly numerous benefits, but no email, ecard, or text message will ever compare to a handwritten note. There are times when only writing on a computer will work, a la this blog. But then, there are times when the most profound words or expression of emotions can only be conveyed through the power of ink and paper.

While mastery of computers is commendable, research suggests that handwriting brings greater cognitive benefit than pounding on a keyboard. Anecdotally, receiving a handwritten note stirs greater positive emotion than a typed letter. In the not too distant past, receiving a printed letter was typically a sign of formality and/or legal news. When someone takes the time to write a note, the thoughts behind it transcend the paper. Who doesn’t like receiving a handwritten note or a card? The recipient knows someone took the extra time and thoughtfulness to send it. A handwritten note recaptures emotion – whether a smile, a hug, or a sense of gratitude. Recipient and sender alike benefit from the act. Handwriting enables us to reach within ourselves for expression.

In a time when everything has become virtual – the tangible nature of a card represents our human connection. The pen is mightier than the computer or cellphone. Seeing a friend’s or loved one’s penmanship is a visceral reminder of the person. It is personal, capturing the nuances of the individual no font ever will. Still, we are fast moving away from penmanship, making note writing a relic. Tragically, when we lose our ability to handwrite notes we are losing an especially important part of our culture.

According to Anne Chemin (2014), “In the United States they have already made allowance for this state of affairs. Given that email and texting have replaced snail mail, and that students take notes on their laptops, “cursive” writing – in which the pen is not raised between each character – has been dropped from the Common Core Curriculum Standards, shared by all states.”

Just as we know that virtual meetings, texts, and posts on social media will never capture what face-to-face communication can – we know that grandma, our parents, friends, children, business associates, and even strangers would so much more welcome something handwritten (even if illegible) from us. Regardless of what we write, there is an inherent message in the note, “I care.”

During this pandemic, when many of us are working from home, curtailing our dining out, reducing trips to the store, forgoing entertainment, or sporting events – we have been given a unique opportunity called, “time.” Rather than squeezing in an extra movie or season of our favorite show – we could brush up on the penmanship of our youth and put it to good use.  Gratitude is good for our brains – and there are many unsung heroes who deserve our thanks. Think of the people who are keeping the wheels of our country moving forward. Perhaps writing some notes to healthcare workers, rescue staff, police officers, a soldier, veterans, children in hospitals, people we know who will be alone this holiday season, and well…you get the picture. “A simple THANK YOU has magic, it changes moods, opens doors, and warms cold hearts” – Unknown. Perhaps your note or card may be the only thank you or communication received. Never underestimate the value of gratitude, that random act of kindness. Pick up a pen – it will make yours and someone else’s day.