Give a Truly Unique Gift This Holiday Season: A Hand-Written Letter
In today’s electronic world, the joy and excitement of opening the mailbox to find a personal letter is fading from our life experience. The process of putting pen to paper and sharing thoughts and information is a dying skill. This holiday season, don’t purchase something from a store or order it online. Instead, give something of yourself that will be treasured for years to come – a personalized hand-written letter.
Write a Unique Letter
We lead busy lives and the time-crunch is worse during the holidays. Often, cards are sent with a photo of the family on the front and which may include a generalized letter that shares various accomplishments and experiences that occurred over the year. While this is nice and appreciated, the card and letter are mass-produced and don’t make a connection that has a true impact.
Drafting a personal letter to specific people demonstrates that you have spent time considering your relationship and the impact that the person had on your life. The recipient should be able to appreciate that you are making a direct connection to them, rather than to everyone in your address book. By doing this, the letter becomes more than words on a page, but a real gift of your time and the thought that went into its writing.
What to Say
Don’t try to send a personalized letter to everyone in your life. Select those few whom you want to receive this gift and you know will appreciate its value. Once you’ve decided on your recipients, consider these choices for content:
- One moment or event. Don’t write a laundry list of things that occurred in your life because it is impersonal and could be part of a mass-audience letter. Instead, focus on one or two key events and explain why they were important in your life. This can be something life-changing, such as the birth of a child or a move to a new town, or something small that delighted you and you want to share the experience. Details are key, as are expressions of personal thoughts and feelings.
- Your recipient is probably someone you’ve known a long time, so share a memory of this person that makes you laugh or one that embodies why he or she matters in your life. Again, details matter, so don’t skimp.
- Remember that the person reading the letter has had their own experiences this past year, so ask about them. Don’t insert a list of questions at the end of the letter, but sprinkle them throughout the piece. For example, if you share a funny story about the challenges of moving into a new house, ask them about their own best or worst experience in this situation. If you share a memory, ask if they remember it differently or what their favorite one is. The key is to keep that personal connection first and foremost in your mind and your words.
In addition to the letter, you can enclose photographs, pictures, articles you think they’d enjoy, or even comic strips you’ve cut out of the paper that made you think of the recipient. These things aren’t necessary but they add to the overall gift of your time, thoughts and energy.
Be Sure To…
Sending a personalized letter is something you hope will be treasured by your recipient, so be sure to do a few things that will help them connect to it long after the envelope has been thrown away, such as:
- Keep it Light – Usually. This letter is not the time to share every drama and downturn in your life unless it is truly significant and would be odd to ignore. The same is true of the recipient’s life. A bright, cheery letter may set the wrong tone for someone who just lost a spouse, for example. If you keep the focus on the letter’s recipient, you will know the best choices to make in this regard.
- Be Sincere. Even in written form, someone will know if you are going through the motions or genuinely engaged in the process. Don’t rush or write when you are tired. It may help to gather a few photos of your recipient to help your focus as you work.
- Hand Write It. Writing the letter with a pen on a piece of paper is one more way of demonstrating that you have put time and thought into this gift. If you don’t have perfect penmanship, type the letter out first, then slowly copy it over onto paper. This gesture will make the letter all the more special.
- Date the Letter. Maybe this letter will become an annual gift and maybe not, but either way put the date on it so the recipient will have a reminder of exactly when in time they received it.
- Include Your Address. This serves the same need as above in that it helps record exactly where you were when the letter was written, but it does something more. By including your address, it makes it easier for the person to write back because they won’t have to look up your information in their address book or call to obtain it.
- Have a Great Closing. Again, while you are sharing your life with this person, the focus should be on them. When you close the letter, make sure that your words express your hopes for a joyous holiday season, a great new year, and maybe a thought about seeing each other soon. Whatever you say, make sure that you acknowledge them in some sincere, genuine way.
A personalized, hand-written letter can be a challenge to do well but is a beautiful gift that the recipients will cherish for years to come. The out-of-pocket costs are small but the rewards for both you and your loved ones is priceless.