Some of you reading this will remember going to your mailbox and finding a handwritten letter from a friend or loved one. It was a bright spot in an otherwise uneventful day. You would read it once, twice, treasuring every word. Sometimes, if it wasn’t too personal, you would pass it around and let others read it so they could share the news too. Then you would put it away and keep it to read again and again. Those letters shaped your life.

Others of you reading this know only the burden of going to your mailbox and finding only bills or sales flyers, most of which you put in File 13 (the trash). Then you go to your computer or some other digital device to check your emails. You click, read and delete, or maybe even forward the message, but there is no personal connection felt between you and the sender. How can there be? It’s only a binary code transferred via a system of satellites and servers, accessible to every technician, law enforcement agency, or hacker who wants to know everything about you. Sure, it’s fun seeing pictures of your loved ones; it’s nice to know they are enjoying their vacation. But how often do you reread that email and save it to treasure later?

Why not pull out a piece of paper or a card and send a personal greeting to someone who would enjoy knowing you care. It doesn’t matter that your handwriting isn’t perfect. What matters is caring and sharing a piece of yourself with another human being. Some of you will think there’s no one who would give a fig about hearing from you. Well, you are wrong. The world is full of people -- young and old -- who desperately need a word of encouragement or cheer. Stores are full of greeting cards with any kind of sentiment you desire. Grandparents can set an example for their grandchildren by sending them a handwritten letter, so they can experience the wonder of getting an envelope in the mail just for them. Parents can then teach them the etiquette of sending a handwritten thank you note.

If you don’t have grandkids, there’s probably a neighbor you know who is going through a rough time and could use a word of encouragement or a smile. Does your church sponsor a missionary family? Write to them, send them a recipe or a newspaper clipping that would bring them a bit of home. Pass a card around at church and have others hand write a personal message in it before you send it off. Soldiers in hospitals, people in prison all need to know they are not forgotten. In this big, wide world of high-speed internet, we all could benefit from a bit of low-speed handwriting.

So slow down today and put your “John Hancock” on a card or letter. Jan. 23 is his birthday, you see, and he would be proud to know his signature on the Declaration of Independence inspired you to pen your signature on an important document, too.

Sue Sterling is a Brainerd resident