Wednesday, 16 October 2013 00:00

Pen Pals and Cursive

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The world is so much smaller than it used to be. And as it has gotten smaller, our expectations have gotten so much larger. We want everything now. It reflects in the way that we do business and it the way we live our lives. We send texts and emails that are delivered instantly. We Skype, Facetime and post our life stories on social media sites like Facebook. We Tweet, Pin, and Instagram. And we have sites, like Youtube, that remind us of our moments of stupidity. And we unabashedly share our photos to people all over the world, sometimes, without thought. Our world has changed so much.

And with these changes we are losing some of the things that have made us so unique as humans. Gone will be the days that lovers will be able to open crisp onionskin letters, penned lovingly and thoughtfully, in cursive, to one another. Our command of cursive will eventually fade from memory and practice. Love letters will become love emails and love texts. We will keep up on each other through social sharing websites and an occasional telephone call from a cellular phone. And on those few occasions when we are required to display our cursive abilities, we will struggle.

I noticed this the other day when I wrote a simple paragraph in cursive. It was a difficult task for me. And while I remember most of the rules and curves, it wasn't my best script. You see, I spend most of my time on a computer so I don't write too many personal notes. And I mostly do electronic banking. Last year, I wrote all of five checks. And I struggled with each. I can still do it, but my beautiful cursive has been replaced by something that is so shaky, that I hardly recognize it as my handwriting.

Many years ago, I didn't have this problem. I wrote long, descriptive letters to friends all over the world. And in return, they did the same. They were my Pen Pals.

Having a Pen Pal was something very cool to have back in the sixties. Our world then, while not small, was absurdly crazy. We were embroiled in a war in Vietnam, and our country was politically and socially divisive. While it was an exciting time, it was absolutely baffling for a preteen, like myself.

I ran across the notion of a Pen Pal by chance. I was in the fourth grade and my handwriting was awful. It was so bad, that my teacher actually gave me an "F" in cursive. When I brought my report card home, my mother wasn't pleased at all. She gave me exactly one grading period to bring my grade up to a respectable level. And she didn't make idle threats. I knew what was waiting for me, if I didn't succeed.

But as much as I wanted to improve, I continued to struggle. My teacher pulled me aside and explained that I needed continual practice. She gave me an address to a Pen Pal organization and told me that I should write and request a Pen Pal. I didn't understand how having a Pen Pal would improve my writing, but she explained to me that I was an American. And all Americans took pride in their work. And she said that she was confident that I would never write a letter to someone in another country without it being my very best work. And she was right.

My initial Pen Pal was a Japanese girl that was my age. We wrote each other for a number of years. Her cursive was absolutely brilliant and mine, very respectable. After all, I was representing my country. But I found out, as we wrote, that our friendship was more than an opportunity for me to practice my cursive. It became an actual friendship and it illustrates what is missing in our world today.

The anticipation of receiving a letter was overwhelming. We waited nearly four weeks between correspondences. A month, through the various mail processing systems in the world at the time, was a reasonable turn-around. Our gratification wasn't instant, so when the letter, or package finally arrived, we could better understand and appreciate our friendship as we poured through the parcel or read the carefully scripted letter. It was brilliant and awesome, a feeling that is almost indescribable today.

I had a few Pen Pals back in the day. And as with our changing world, our relationships changed and we grew and lost touch with each other. But the memory of receiving those letters will never fade. And while I appreciate the technology today that allows me to communicate quickly and frequently, every now and then, I'd just like to go to my mailbox and find an onion-skinned envelope, with Par Avion emblazoned on the front. Just a friendly handwritten note from a good friend, many miles away, that will remind me that there's still a little bit of goodness from the past still left.

Read 812 times Last modified on Friday, 22 August 2014 17:52
Alonzo A. Heath

I am  a writer and I live in Ohio.  I have authored the content of LonnieHeath.Com for over ten years.   I am  also a regular contributor to Success Central and Successfully Selling.   You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.  Check out my new book, "Seven Days in June" on



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