Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 18, 2012

Perspectives: Phone calls and handwritten letters, heartfelt connections

By Albert Lewis

---- — Without prompting, my youngest grandson called me in the middle of the day! It was one of our hottest days and he was hanging out in the basement to stay cool. His house has air conditioning, but only in certain areas.

He didn't identify himself and just started with, "Hi Poppa." Not too many people address me as Poppa and I knew immediately it was Jake. We talked for a few moments about staying cool and his plans to leave for camp in a few days. I told Jake how much I appreciated his call, and I quickly realized that while I was having a good day, Jake's call made it even better.

A few years ago Jake's mom had given me an old cell phone with a key pad on it. The plan was that Jake and I could text back and forth. One time I texted him and he quickly responded that he had a friend over and didn't want to be "rood," so he would call me later. Shortly after that he lost the phone!

I realized there is nothing like a real phone call. It contains a real voice with tone and inflection, pauses and signs of interest. An email or text just doesn't do the same thing.

Recently, very dear friends gave us letters we had written to them in the 1980s. They were letters written during the summers when we were faculty at a Reform Jewish Camp and their kids were attending. Those kids now have their own children! The letters had meaning, value and nostalgia. As our friends are preparing to move to a new location, they found the letters, saved all these years. They were given to us as mementos of friendship and the past.

Sometimes I wonder if direct phoning is a rarity in the younger generations, and if letter writing and the use of a phone is something of the past. I find a real voice much more engaging and meaningful than an email or text message.

I certainly embrace the cell phones for all they can do, but I do appreciate an inviting or concerned voice even more. I like to call people about lunch dates and then I can always email possible times and places.

In our bedroom closet, there is a large box filled with "love letters" I sent to Shirley in the summer of 1962. I was away working as a camp counselor and I wrote at least once a day. Every so often, when we rearrange things in the closet, we open that box and select a few handwritten letters to read.

I wonder if young people in love today send written love letters? I know that computer and cell phone messages can be saved to a hard drive, but there is nothing like waiting for the mailperson to deliver a handwritten letter — just for you. And, I have to believe that such a letter written to your "heart drive" has the potential to last forever.

I am thrilled with the technological advances we have experienced in the past 25 years. The advances made possible in medicine and science are too numerous to list. And technology does enable many of us to reach out to one another over mountains and miles. But a phone call or letter — from whatever device works best for you — cannot be replaced or duplicated.

Rabbi Dr. Albert M. Lewis is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth El in Traverse City. He is a public speaker and author of "Soul Sounds: Reflections on Life," available at Contact him through the Record-Eagle, 120 W. Front St., Traverse City MI 49684.