I was going through some old files the other day and stumbled across a handwritten note from a former colleague of mine. Reading the note again triggered memories about that particular time of my life and my career. Later, I thought about other notes I had received over the years and how the art of the handwritten note seems to be disappearing.
I attended a private school, McDonogh School in Baltimore, from seventh through twelfth grades. There were two deans at the school who kept boxes of Crane & Co. note cards on their desks. Whenever a student (or an alum) accomplished something notable, one of them would send a handwritten note. Their penmanship was excellent and their ability to say something gracious and kind about your achievement was remarkable as well.
I don’t recall receiving similar notes when I attended college, but the decade of the 1970’s was a little tumultuous on college campuses. Later, I remember a partner I worked for at Price Waterhouse who made it his practice to send handwritten notes to associates and clients at appropriate times.
Maybe it was the implementation of email, or perhaps voicemail that sharply curtailed the distribution of handwritten notes. The dynamics after 9-11-2001 changed the way we correspond with government officials, leaving us with email or fax as the best option instead of a handwritten note that might take two months to go through special screening. I opted not to contact the kind folks at Crane & Co. or look for confirming research. That would have seemed too cold and impersonal.
For me, a handwritten note still conveys a personal touch and the implied message that the sender took the time to remember me for something I did. Oddly enough, most of the notes that I receive these days are from colleagues in the education field. Critics of our education system might say that this habit reflects the dynamics of an unchanging industry. I choose to think that it reflects the ingrained nature of an educator to recognize that simple recognition of accomplishments can inspire all of us to achieve our potential and beyond.