I was moving through my house today when I noticed the outline of a small figure outside my front door.
I saw what looked like a card being shoved through the letterbox. As it was Sunday I knew it couldn’t be the postman and assumed that it must be a private circular or flier being delivered offering gutter cleaning or dog walking services.
But when I lifted the small brown object I quickly noticed this was something different. It was a proper, old fashioned envelope, the sort you might imagine your grandparents once used.
There was an intricate gold design on the interior of the envelope and what seemed to be a grand coat of arms or crest bearing Latin words on the rear.
Inside was a stiff sheet of high quality writing paper bearing the same symbol with the Latin writing (I was later informed that it is actually the crest for Hogwarts out of the Harry Potter stories).
The formality and majesty of the stationary was belied by the writing on the front and inside. It was obviously a young child’s hand. A missive had been tentatively started on one side only to be abandoned for a new effort overleaf.
The letter was addressed on the envelope to three names – my wife, my son and myself.
I began to read. This is what the letter said….
Can you please kick back my purple smiley face ball. I accidently kicked it into your back gargen.’
The letter was signed ‘Yours sincerly’ and named.
Next door to me lives a happy frizzy-haired girl, just a year or two older than my son. She had delivered the letter.
Promptly the ball was retrieved and I hand-delivered it to the beaming child. Her mother told me that she had volunteered to knock on our door to get the ball back but the little girl insisted on writing a letter.
‘I didn’t want to discourage her,’ she told me.
I nodded along. More than that, the letter made my day.
Later I tried to think when was the last time I received a letter. I get mail every day – an incessant series of impersonal statements, bills, appointments and unwanted offers for credit cards.
But an actual letter? Something that someone has taken the time to sit down and write by hand? I honestly can’t remember. Probably several years ago.
My whole life is dominated by communication – texts, emails, articles, social media and (God forbid) blogs. But the method of communication which requires extra effort and which can reveal most about the identity and personality of the author is virtually extinct from my life.
And as I sat and re-read over the letter the little girl had taken the time to write and deliver through my front door, I couldn’t help but think that I’m a wee bit poorer because of that.
Life is engineered to be full of short-cuts. But there’s still much appreciation to be found in sometimes taking the long way round.