Dear New Hope,
There is great irony in what I am about to say. I will be making a case for the power of sending handwritten notes, although this note will be sent out via a mass communication email. I pray you will forgive such blatant hypocrisy.
After George H.W. Bush died in November, many tributes were given regarding his likable personality and his leadership capacity. Regardless of political party, it seemed that most people had high regard and respect for our 41st President.
One of the things that set him apart from the field was the time he took to send personal notes to people in his circle of influence. According to one news report, Mr. Bush had “perfected the art of the handwritten thank-you note.” Even with the pressures of running the country, one of his most significant leadership legacies was his attention and care to take up an ink pen and say two powerful words to people around him: “thank you.”
In our fast-paced, digital-soaked culture of tweets and texts, there is still a strong case to be made for using a quill and ink pot. In the last couple of months, I have received a number of handwritten notes that were sent to encourage and inspire me. These notes still sit on my desk and are regularly looked at as a reminder of how much I am loved. Here is just a sample of what I have received:
- A note from a couple in Bellaire praising God that they found the perfect church family.
- A note from a Small Group leader expressing love and appreciation for the ministry of the Word.
- A note from a new family who stands in awe at the powerful ministry that takes place between the walls of New Hope every week.
- A note from an old neighbor just to say “you are loved!”
- A note from a single mom expressing thanks to the church for giving her strength and faith to endure through a very difficult time.
- A note from a New Hope Small Group as a collection of well-wishers thanking me for all I do.
- A note from a mom thanking me because God used me to give her the courage to step into leadership opportunities even though she felt unqualified.
- A note from snowbirds in Florida saying how much they miss me and the church.
- A note from a single dad saying how much the message on “blessing your children” affected his relationship with his daughter.
- A note from a father who remains encouraged to obey the Lord even while facing challenges with his son.
- A note from a woman who continually lifts me to the Lord in prayer.
All these in just two months! And all are handwritten! It is because they are handwritten that they speak so powerfully to me. Think of it: people actually took the time to pick up a quill, dip it in the ink pot, write out a note of appreciation, and send it in the mail. My friend, just one of these thank-you notes is better than twenty emails.
Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul who took the time to handwrite words of Scripture on pages which have now endured for centuries:
1 Corinthians 16:21 – I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.
Galatians 6:11 – See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.
Colossians 4:18 – I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.
2 Thessalonians 3:17 – I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.
Philemon 19 – I, Paul, write this with my own hand.
For the last seven years, I have tried to practice the craft of writing to people with my own hand. Nearly every week, I write between four and ten personal notes expressing love and care to the New Hope family. Just this week I wrote notes to:
- A couple who moved to the area from Farmington Hills welcoming them to New Hope.
- A couple facing a major health crisis encouraging them to remain faithful.
- A retired couple thanking them for joining a Small Group.
- A woman navigating the challenges of transition.
- A couple who recently faced job transition encouraging them to represent Christ well.
- A couple celebrating their 19th wedding anniversary to say “great job!”
- A mom who lost a son in a car accident expressing my heart of love.
- A couple whose son died in a snowmobile accident expressing my sorrow.
- And my wife to simply say “you’re amazing!”
I could have emailed or texted any of these notes, but the power would simply not be the same.
If there is something to be learned from the legacy of George H.W. Bush it is this: First, don’t eat broccoli, it’s just plain gross. Second, perfect the craft of the handwritten thank you note. Make it your goal to sit down every week with a quill and ink pot, and send 3-4 handwritten notes. Express your thanks and love to people in your sphere of influence. Yes, it takes time and stamps cost $.50, but the relational payoff is huge!
I close this digital letter begging you to use your imagination to encourage others. As I sit at my desk typing, I now pick up an ink pen as if sending you a personal note. With my own hand, I scribble these last three words to you with a heart full of appreciation as your pastor.
YOU ARE LOVED,