Will You Keep in Touch?
“WHAT is this?” asked the puzzled couple as they pulled two letters from an envelope. Their daughter, Louise, had sent them. One brought the parents up to date on their daughter’s life. The other, though, was a multiple-choice questionnaire. All that the parents had to do was mark the answers and mail the questionnaire back to Louise in the enclosed self-addressed, stamped envelope.
But why a questionnaire? To prod a written reply. “I only wanted them to keep in touch, even if I had to write the letter myself,” Louise explains. “The fact that I’m not at home doesn’t mean I don’t love them anymore or that I don’t want to hear from them.”
Wouldn’t you agree, though, that keeping in touch is often easier said than done? For some, the idea of sitting down and writing a letter appears as challenging as climbing Mount Everest. So where do you begin? Where do you find the time? Usually you don’t find it—you make it! Since it takes time and effort to develop a friendship in the first place, would it not be worthwhile regularly to invest a small amount of time to maintain that friendship by either telephone or mail?
Use the Telephone
Do you live away from home? Perhaps you, like many others, just enjoy hearing the voice of a loved one. Many adults still find comfort and wisdom in the voice of their parents. Parents also enjoy hearing from their children and often even more so from their grandchildren. With the use of satellites and undersea cables for international telephone calls, you can call around the world in an instant. One missionary in Papua New Guinea, regularly receives encouraging telephone calls from her mother who lives in the United States, some 6,000 miles away! Although the 17-hour difference in time must be considered, both are able to find great joy in the short time spent talking together.
Whether we use the telephone often or just occasionally, it is good to keep certain things in mind. When making a phone call, it is generally best to identify yourself. It is not the time for a guessing game. It may cause embarrassment and can hurt your conversation before it begins or waste your money if you have a wrong number!
Time is a large factor in telephone cost. The longer you talk the more it costs. How can you save money? In some places there are cheaper phone companies to choose from. Then, also, know what you want to say. Some people write themselves brief notes prior to calling, especially if calling the doctor or when doing business. How often have you hung up the phone only to remember an unasked question or an unmentioned request?
Finally, when keeping in touch by phone, be cordial, and if others use the same telephone line, be brief. A friendly greeting and concern for others is always appreciated. Then really listen as you are spoken to, taking a genuine interest in what is said. But telephoning is not the only means of keeping in touch. Many people say . . .
‘I Like to Write to My Friends’
How does a letter differ from a telephone conversation? One woman expressed her appreciation of letters in this way: “I enjoy both phone calls and letters. When I’m very depressed and I need to talk, the phone is fine. But if it is late or I know I can’t reach anyone by phone, I still have the letters from my family to read. They help me cope. On the phone, when I finish speaking, the words are gone, but the thought stays. With a letter I have the words and thoughts forever. I can refer to them whenever I need them.”
Does writing a letter have to be a tense experience? No! You will write best if you relax and write as if you are speaking directly to your friend or family. The advice of the 18th-century English statesman and author Lord Chesterfield still rings true for today’s letter writers: “Letters should be easy and natural, and convey to the persons to whom we send them just what we would say to those persons if we were with them.”
Letter writing reveals your personality—your likes and dislikes, your taste and character, your experience and education, your manners. So think before you write, and try not to write while irritated or angry, because your letter bears mute but strong evidence of the real you.
Will you run out of things to say? “No,” answers John. He writes home each week, even though he has not lived with his family since 1936! He and his wife also try to keep in touch with the great number of friends they have made over the years. They write many letters every month. Why? “It means more to us if someone sits down and puts his thoughts on paper,” answers John. “If you want the pleasure of receiving a letter, you must send one.”
What can you write about? You can write about things you have done in the past or about what you are now doing. Friends will be interested in your daily happenings. A mental outline may be of help while writing, as well as answering questions asked in any previous letter received. A word of caution though about the use of questions. One man wrote his nephew and asked a number of questions, hoping for a letter in return. It worked. The nephew answered every question. However, the whole letter consisted mainly of “yes” and “no” answers. The boy’s uncle had a difficult time trying to remember all the questions he had asked, but at least the nephew had written.
“I can’t spell,” or, “I don’t write or type well,” are common excuses for not writing. That could be true, and yet penmanship will not improve without practice. Besides, is it worth the risk of letting a friendship go cold because of not writing for fear of misspelling words? Most friends are just happy to receive a letter from you. They don’t expect you to be a grammarian or a novelist.
Remember, a letter does not have to be long. A short note with a simple heartfelt message is an excellent way to deepen friendships.
It Is Worth the Time
“Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation,” noted one 19th-century poet. In years gone by, the home was the center of family life. Children were raised and remained in the general vicinity. In many lands, this is no longer the case. We live in a mobile society. Since most people cannot afford to travel long distances to visit family or friends whenever they wish, communication by telephone or mail becomes a must.
What will you gain? “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving,” Jesus Christ said. (Acts 20:35) You can reap the benefits of personal satisfaction and happiness. But more important than that, you will strengthen and maintain long-lasting friendships, simply by keeping in touch.
[Box on page 26]
How to Write a Good Letter
→ Be clear → Be correct
→ Be complete → Be courteous
→ Be concise → Be considerate
→ Be conversational
[Picture on page 24]
How do you keep in touch?
[Picture on page 25]
A short note with a simple heartfelt message is an excellent way to deepen friendships