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Sentimental Simplicity - The most personal gift

Apr 19, 2017 09:09AM ● By Elizabeth Hesterly

My aunt who my family affectionately called “Chatch” was a strong purveyor of the bread and butter note. She had boxes and boxes of note cards and stationery, and she used them daily. From the time that I went off to college in 1979, Chatch wrote me once a week for the rest of her life. She died in 2008, only a few months shy of her 90th birthday. Imagine how many times I opened my mailbox to find correspondence from her. I miss those cards and letters still.

They were often simple little notes, full of her cheer and chattiness, and they made me happy. They conveyed her love and devotion to me, and they made me feel connected to her in a precious way.

Chatch (rhymes with scotch) was from a generation who cherished the art of letter writing. She selected her paper goods with care and I always sensed that she matched her recipient to the paper she chose. Her handwriting was not an easy one to read, but that didn’t matter. I had years of practice.

From Chatch I learned that receiving an old-fashioned letter in the mail is a simple gift. I know what it meant to me to recognize that she had thought of me and sat down to tell me so. I’ve kept many of her cards, and I’ve stored in special boxes notes she wrote to both of my sons.

Letters are important. They are tools of learning. We have a deeper understanding of American history through the letters of our patriots, through the letters of soldiers at war to spouses at home, through the letters of those who aimed to be President. A letter is a treasure. It’s a record of the day, a peek into the moment, a first-hand account.

But most people don’t write letters anymore. We’ve got email and texting and Facebook and all sorts of social media angles that thwart our efforts toward pen and paper. I wish it weren’t so. I personally like finding a card or letter in my mailbox. I immediately notice when my stack of mail contains a unique envelope resting among junk mail and bills. I cull my mail, sorting by category, with the rare personal correspondence positioned on top. I eagerly read this type of mail first.

We all have excuses justifying our neglect of letter writing. We’re busy. It’s unnecessary. A phone call is easier. However, I’ll contend all my life that writing a letter to someone who is lonely or sick or in some kind of peril is just about the best gift you can offer. Test me and see. Think of someone you need to thank, or someone who means a lot to you, or someone you know who is struggling. Then send that person a handwritten note. Your simple gift will do wonders. I know because that’s what Chatch taught me.

Let’s not be part of the first generation who neglects to leave an important legacy. Your letters and mine, they offer a historical record. They will tell our stories. They will give those who come after us a personal glimpse into our lives, what we cared about, those we loved, and what we thought of the world around us. So, let’s write letters. Let’s make history. Let’s put our words onto paper and leave a lasting image. No text or email or Instagram can do that. Choose your paper, select your pen, and give your words away.


Elizabeth O'Roark Hesterly was born and raised in Lafayette. She is a graduate of Acadiana High School and LSU, is too serious for her own good, admires loyalty and faithfulness, and strives for both.

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