I’m back in school because someone wrote me a letter by hand, in pen, on stationary. That’s not the only reason, of course; I was already looking at schools, so I was in the right frame of mind when the letter arrived, but I’m not sure anything but this letter would have moved me to pick up the phone and call the letter writer, and once I did that my application was in the mail.

The letter writer is a friend from the last time I was in school, 15 years ago. This is the second letter he’s written me in the intervening years. The first one sat on my desk begging for an answer for months, but the weight of expectation for a well-penned, thoughtful epistle in response grew too heavy and I eventually put it in the recycling. But I didn’t forget.

Writing a letter is a powerful act. When you can message, text, email, or call, the intention demanded by the medium becomes part of the message. A letter is a gift, but it conveys a loaded question as well: do you value me as much as I clearly value you? I wrote you a letter.

The answer may be no. You may not get a letter in return. But there are other ways letters work. My immediate response to the last letter I received was cumulative; the weight of my failure to reply to the first letter, years ago, was fully behind the urgency to jump at this one.

Write the letter.

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