Jonathan Crimmins

Jonathan Crimmins

The Power of Written Words…

As I have gotten older I have found that all those people who taught me life lessons were, in fact, correct. During my youth I figured that the lessons being taught were some kind of tale. Whether it was my parents, my grandparents, a well-meaning adult, they were, well, old. Their wisdom was old and would never be applicable to me or today’s standards.

Fast forward to the fall of 1996. I was working on coursework for my degree and had decided to take on an internship at the New Hampshire Historical Society. I learned all manner of things while being marooned in the sub-basement along with the busts, dust and memories. Some of those lessons came in the unlikeliest of ways.

One of the curators, Sherry Wilding White, told me that we were witnessing the last days of real written words. I shrugged it off as one of those pieces of wisdom. Of course, by that time, correspondence was a lost art. Long before the use of, “LOL and OMG” email had started to take hold. Sherry feared for the end of heart felt conversations. She was right.

Last weekend my wife and I went to Camden for a much-needed anniversary get away. In between lunch and walking around the harbor we stopped into an antique bookstore. Nestled away in one small corner of the shop was a box with post cards. Upon looking at the box I saw a tab for Brunswick and grabbed several dozen cards.

Inside the stack were beautiful cards from an era forever lost to history. There were post dates from 1910 and 1917. Some were faded and, yet others were in surprisingly good condition. There were post cards of Maine Street. There were post cards of the trolley tracks on Pleasant Street and some of Merrymeeting Park. There were post cards of Bowdoin College. These were not your modern post cards.

Most important was what was contained on the backs of the cards. Daily musings and news from one friend to another. Most of the cards were addressed to a Mrs. Helen Frost of Rockland by a now forgotten author, their name forever to remain a mystery. Nonetheless, you could discern the affection and warmth that the writer shared for Mrs. Frost. No email, Snap Chat or Instagram post can carry the same sense of warmth.

Locked within the secretive code of cursive writing, the cards mentioned family members and loss, upbeat stories and daily occurrences. The cards contained the deliberations of a life lead long before the use of bits and bytes.

As I perused through the cards I thought back to a shoebox in my house. Within the shoe box are letters, all handwritten, from my grandmother. Over the course of my years in college right up to the month that she passed away she wrote me several times a week.

She did not want phone calls. While dialing a number would certainly be easier, she preferred to talk to me in words. Now, those letters, while dated, are some of my most prized possessions. They mean little to anyone else, but to me they mean the world.

Those letters have the news of the day or sometimes a cartoon. They contained what adventure she and I my grandfather had taken that day. Those letters present a view into the life of someone who played a role in forming the person I am today.

Above all else those letters demonstrated how important I was to her. The effort showed how much she cared. It was far more difficult and time consuming to get out the paper, write a letter, address the envelope, stamp it and walk it to the mailbox. A phone call would certainly be quicker, but it would have been impersonal. It would not have carried the same weight.

With the invention of email and social media the elegance of the written word has been diminished. While we live in an age of un-apparelled access to information, some of the most important interpersonal information is and will be forever lost. Not for a minute do I believe that in fifty or a hundred years will there be an antique blog posting store where one could search through boxes of printed emails.

Tonight, get inspired. Go to the store and buy some note paper and envelopes and let someone know what they mean to you. Make the effort to commit your thoughts to paper. You can even write the Editor of your local newspaper and tell them what great columnists they have writing for their paper, particularly those who appear in the paper on Wednesdays.

If we are lucky someday there might still be a small store selling old books or postcards of a time long since lost. It really is up to us to make sure that we keep those small gestures alive and to make sure we are letting those around us know how we really feel.

That’s my two cents…

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at j_ [email protected]


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