Njameh_CD.05N’Jameh CamaraYou know how Facebook works. You type your friend’s name into the “Search” box, write him or her a detailed message full of “$$$,” “btw’s,” “,” and even add a “<3.” You press the send button with a feeling of accomplishment, confusion, contentment or nervousness. Then, while the feelings marinate, you wait. Oh, the joy of waiting! Then you think to yourself, “OK, now all they have to do is go online and respond to me!” And you are still waiting…until you see that 21 hours later they get back to you! Phew. You then remind yourself, “Thank goodness for technology!”

There is a form of communication that goes a little bit ignored in today’s society and, if used, may be very slow to get a response. This form may help emotionally heal the internal battle wounds of a victim, calm the tensions between friends and attempt to re-ignite the fire between old lovers. You’ve seen it in the movies. It is a timeless medium and you’ve probably guessed correctly – handwriting a letter.

Now, if you were a late ‘80s or ‘90s kid like me who did not have an email address, you may have written your letters in different gel pen inks, quoted lyrics from the “Backstreet Boys” or “No Doubt” toward the bottom of the page, stuck Lisa Frank stickers on the edges for a border, and rocked out your name by adding curly cues and glitter! Yes, Ke$ha is notorious for use of her glitter use, but so were you once!

Now you may ask yourself, “Who is writing this and why?”

Well, I am a college undergrad with a full class schedule, an aspiring actress, a big sister, a member of an a capella group, an active community member and am getting ready to study in Rome next semester. Like you, I know what it’s like to have a busy schedule. There are some days when I don’t even have time to make dinner or work out! Believe me, I pay the consequences.

I try to go to Mass when I can at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, Milwaukee, but it certainly does not work out every Sunday. Whenever I have a minute to talk with my friends, it is usually through text messaging. With God, it is usually a walking meditation on my way to class. I am one of those people who look for convenient and fast ways to communicate. It’s what society has taught me. However, I realize now that sometimes what is convenient is not always better.

I was at my apartment one evening painfully working my way through a dry, 400-page novel.  As I was reading, I received a friendly text message from one of my good friends who lives in another state. I thought he was finally going to come visit me when he said, “I’m in the process of writing some letters and need your address!”  I thought to myself, “Huh, that’s cool! I haven’t thought about doing that in a while. Of course you can!”

I felt anxious because I hadn’t received a handwritten letter from a friend in the mail since I was maybe 14. What made me smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside – yes, I just said that – was thinking about how my friend was taking the time to find his writing materials, figuring out what exciting news to tell me, actually going and buying stamps and an envelope and traveling to the nearest post office to send it.

I was excited to get my letter because I felt as though I was receiving so much more from him than what was written. The multiple and yet simple steps to sending the letter was a good reminder of how he chose to care for our friendship.

On a spiritual level, I sensed a part of his soul coming through his words as I was reading, even if he did not realize it. He was speaking from the heart – the action of mailing the letter was from the heart. I felt like he was giving me a hug from miles away.

I don’t mean to say that writing a message online isn’t caring. That would be extreme, right? Writing an online message is just different. However, for someone to break out of the norm once in a while and talk to you in a way that takes more time and steps… it’s refreshing.

After reading, it was time for me to meet him halfway and write back, as if I were waving to him halfway up the street on a sunny Saturday afternoon. 

My thoughts ran with creativity, sarcasm and seriousness. No stickers or quoted lyrics this time. It was different. It was my grown up letter, and tiny glimpses of innocence could be discovered if you wanted to find them. That is what made it fun. I didn’t know when my friend would receive my letter, but I was comfortable in knowing that he would not respond in 21 hours. I was willing to wait. Wouldn’t you?

I put aside a piece of my afternoon for my good friend as he did for me. We reminded ourselves that even with the distance, we could creatively show each other how we could still spend time for one another, however spiritual, through paper and ink. I had a good time and had some good “LOL’s.” My soul was tickled.

(Camara, a 2009 graduate of Dominican High School, Whitefish Bay, is majoring in theater performance, and working toward minors in women/gender studies and psychology at Loyola University in Chicago. Her home parish is Our Lady of Good Hope, Milwaukee, where she also attended grade elementary and middle school. Email her at ncamara@luc.edu.)