When was the last time you received a letter? When was the last time you wrote one? My grandmother, Myrtis Virginia Hamilton Moore (yes, she’s been mentioned here often), likely was the last person with whom I regularly exchanged letters. She died in 1994. She also was the first person I remember complaining about receiving a letter from me that I had typed instead of written by hand. I explained at the time that it was easier for me to dash off a letter on the typewriter at my desk than to find appropriate stationery or other paper on which to compose a handwritten letter. She told me that she was glad to get the typed letters if the alternative was not getting one at all, but she still preferred to open one that I had written by hand. I’m sure that lots of people still write letters because not everyone is connected to the Internet, either by choice or by economics. But many of us quit writing letters back in the 1970s, maybe, when the breakup and deregulation of AT&T and the emergence of other phone companies resulted in much more reasonable long-distance phone rates. Remember how families would gather on a Sunday afternoon to make a mass phone call to an aunt or uncle in California? It was too expensive to make long-distance calls regularly, so we wrote letters instead. As children, we looked forward to receiving letters from a relative in another state. I remember being envious then of classmates who had pen pals in different countries. I considered “signing up” to get a pen pal through ads in the back of Boys Life magazine, but I never did it. I exchanged wonderful love letters with a girl I met at a Fort Smith, Ark., wedding when I was 19 and living in Cape Girardeau, Mo. We wrote almost daily. Occasionally, I would call her from a pay phone while I was out running around with a friend. He’d get on the phone to assure her that I bored him to insanity by talking about her all the time. I drove west and then south to see her twice (maybe three times), including once on the spur of the moment when I was out with friends. That devoted correspondence went on for a few months until I foolishly wrote less and less. Eventually, she found a local guy who would talk to her and she married him. The next spring I took a spring break trip to the Bahamas where, while waiting to leave from the local airstrip, I met this beautiful, rich girl from a Detroit suburb who was going to school in New York while hoping to become a model. We talked while our respective traveling companions were in line checking in at the Bahamas Air ticket counter. She gave me her address, phone number and other pertinent information, but I never wrote her. I intended to write her and even started letters to her, but I’d put them away to finish later and never did. I have no idea why. That’s probably fodder for a session with a psychologist or at least friends who dispense relationship advice. A special emotion courses through our bodies when we receive a letter in a mailbox. Kathy, my eventually neglected correspondent in Fort Smith, once said, “The mailman has no idea how much joy he brings when he puts a letter in the mailbox.” I agreed at the time and I still do. It’s true that the Internet allows us to do amazing things. E-mail, chat and text applications are a convenient way to communicate. Yes, I exchanged long, involved e-mails with the woman who became my second wife. We had known each other in high school and reconnected on the Internet. And those initial e-mails essentially were letters. But I don’t think they are as valuable as letters because, if nothing else, we don’t have them now. Correspondence between two people often has provided important documents for historians. Even to us common folks who don’t make a big mark on history, they serve an importance, too. Imagine finding a packet of envelopes addressed to your grandmother containing letters from your grandfather, or even an earlier beau, while he was off serving in the military. What a wonderful window for looking into her world as a young woman! Any letter found years later, would serve the same purpose. And yes, history is important. You might have trouble convincing people of that premise now — and I’m not blaming “these kids today” because we all are guilty of not writing letters, even us old folks who grew up in the days of letters but now try to get along in the world of “instant everything.” So, I challenge all of you to return to a better form of communication. It wasn’t a better time because there was a lot wrong with the 1950s and ‘60s, but letters are a better way to exchange ideas, information and even emotions. The time it takes to write a letter, buy the stamps and mail it is worth what you may get in return. It’s not hard. We’re just out of practice. Start with “Dear Bill or Susan (or Jaden or Tiffany),” Then tell them how you have missed talking with them or hearing from them. Ask questions about their work, their hobbies that you know they enjoy. Ask about their families or other relationships. Tell them what you think about your shared interests (maybe politics, NASCAR or collecting old coins). Ask them if they saw the story about the woman in Idaho who found a jar of arrowheads buried next to her fence or the guy in Brooklyn who complained of a toothache and his dentist found that a bullet was embedded in his jaw. Anything is fodder for a personal letter. Then sign it, “Sincerely, Mary” or “Love, Mike.” Stick it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and mail it. Historians will study e-mails someday, but what will they learn? That we can’t spend time, effort or brain cells to compose complete sentences, spell out words as long as “you” or string together more than two thoughts at a time? They won’t have any idea what we thought about current events, our lives, each other or even the weather. Write a letter to someone you miss … do it this week. And then write another one to someone else this weekend. Make it two more next week and a third one next weekend. Repeat. Soon you’ll be exchanging letters with several of your favorite people in the world. And your mailbox, instead of being filled with bills and ads, will be full of joy.