Friday, January 29, 2016

Communication in Paper and Ink

Over the last twenty years there has been a rapid increase in communication, mostly digital in nature. While this has made it faster, more convenient, and allowed communication across the globe, virtually instantly, it has come at the expense of the immense value of communication on paper. I’d like to have you consider some thoughts as to how written communication, on paper, can be of even greater impact than an email, an SMS text message, a tweet, Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat message.

Hand written notes – Much like a text message or tweet in content, the value here is that it feels more personal to the receiver of the note. As poor as your handwriting may be, there is no comparison to the impact of such a note when it conveys your heart, your thoughts, and your prayers for the recipient. What’s more, it will likely be kept, posted on a wall, folded into a book, or used to hold a place in a Bible. Finding proper occasion for such notes is helpful. I use them often to congratulate someone on an accomplishment, at the end of a season or a career to thank a player or coach, in moments of failure or loss to share comfort, assurance, and loyalty to those feeling lonely and cut off.

Game Day letters – I have used this form of communication for twenty years. With many of the teams I serve I am afforded the opportunity to speak with some of the players and coaches, sometimes with 100% of the team and coaching staff. While speaking is of tremendous value, it is incomplete. I also take advantage of the opportunity and provide a game day devotional thought, in letter form, for those attending chapel or for the coaching staff to read aloud pregame. I have been stunned by how many of our players tell me that they save these letters, keep them throughout their careers, refer to them on occasion, post them in their lockers, or even put them in a binder. Many of them find their way to the trash bin, but it’s worth it for the ones whose hearts are touched by the written word.

Books – Now that books are not only available in paper and ink, but also formatted for your electronic tablet, Nook, or even your smart phone, books are more important than ever. I have consumed books in both forms over the last several years, but always prefer paper and ink books. They make it simpler for me to highlight, to make notes, to dog ear pages, and most importantly to share with others. When I find a book that is of particular value, I will share my copy with others, I will buy a copy for the coach or athlete, or I’ll buy a lot of copies to give away at coaches clinics, for use in small group meetings, or other venues. Books are good. Read some. Give some away. Enrich others’ lives.

Prayers – Across my years of service as a sport chaplain, few things have had the impact of writing down what I was praying for a person and then handing that written prayer to the person for whom I was praying. When we tell someone, “I’m praying for you,” it can seem terribly remote and detached from their experience of the moment. When we take the time, the care, the intentionality, to write down exactly what we are praying, it speaks to their hearts in a unique way. It also informs them as to how to pray for themselves. It encourages and strengthens them to trust God and builds relationship with us.

Please send text messages, tweet someone, send a Facebook note or an email, but do not neglect the opportunity to make a uniquely powerful connection with others by communicating on paper. The lasting value of such notes are posted all over the filing cabinet at my office and are kept as treasures in my home.

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