By Tim Hayes

Being apart sucks.  Whether it’s for a day, a week, or months on end, when your partner and best friend is not where you are, it stinks.

It’s easy to offer advice to the person in such a situation.  It’s easy to say, “Your connection is strong enough to weather this.”  Or, “Just think how great it will be when you’re finally able to be together again.”  All of which might be true, but unless you’re in that person’s shoes, words like these are just that.  Words.

But on the flip side, words may be the best tool available to shorten the distance, at least somewhat.

Today, we have more ways to communicate than ever.  Texts, iMessages, e-mail, emogees, videos, Skype, FaceTime – they’re all an arm’s length away, available around the clock.  Yet there’s something special about the oldest tool of all – the good, old-fashioned handwritten letter.

How many e-mails bombard you each day?  How many are absolute garbage?  Even of the ones that carry some meaning, conducting business or chatting with friends, how many do you think to save?  Not many, would be my guess.

But what happens when you receive a handwritten thank-you card, or short note of encouragement, or expression of love and support?  I don’t know about you, but those are the ones I save.

Nooks, crannies, and corners of my desktop (the real one made of wood, not the home screen on my computer) are covered with cards, letters, and Post-It Notes conveying handwritten messages to me over the years.  It’s always a wonderful day-brightener to stumble across one and read it again, reminding me of fun, successful times spent with friends and respected colleagues.

George H.W. Bush, as president, became noted for writing handwritten letters to thousands of friends, associates, and American citizens.  He didn’t have a team of PR drones type up meaningless, dishwater, throwaway claptrap onto which he could scribble his signature.  No, he took pen to paper himself and fashioned personalized notes to individuals.  You think the recipients of those tailored pieces of correspondence saved them?  You bet they did.

A friend, back in our college days, used to take a walk around campus every Sunday evening – to keep his sanity, as he recalls.  While he walked, he carried a pen and pad, and as he stopped at various landmarks would write a letter to his girlfriend, who attended a different college some 300 miles away.  They’ve been married more than 30 years, now.  There’s nothing like a handwritten letter to stay close to someone.

Patriot and our second president, John Adams, wrote to Abigail in Massachusetts every single day from Philadelphia during the Continental Congress.  Their marriage weathered unbelievable storms and became famous for the mutual devotion they displayed.  Those letters helped keep that foundation strong.

The late Leo Buscaglia, who taught a “Love Class” at UCLA in the 1970s and ‘80s, and who lectured on the various aspects and expressions of love to audiences around the world, once told the story of a husband who gave his wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas.  Leo told the wife to wrap it up and give it back to him for his birthday, the big dope.  He said when you love someone, take the time to give them gifts that show how much you know them, how much they mean to you.  Give from the heart, not the head.  Put as much of yourself into the gift as you can.

For my money, one of the best ways to do that is to write.  Write about your past together.  Write about your future together.  Write about what’s happening today, and how it reminds you of a conversation or a story that you’ve shared.  There are no wrong messages when they come from the heart.  And when that letter gets opened – even though being apart sucks – the power of words can close the gap of miles like nothing else.

No wonder I love being a writer.

Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Consulting