Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Requiem for the Holiday Newsletter

I used to send out a holiday newsletter at this time of year. I called it the “Davis Advent Newsletter.” I wrote it carefully and concisely so that it fit onto one side of a single page. I printed them on decorative holiday stationary, and stuffed them into envelopes, along with our Christmas cards. We tirelessly licked dozens of stamps and went to the post office to send them on their way. No longer.

We also no longer receive newsletters tucked into Christmas cards with other people’s family photos. The newsletters always caught us up on the major happenings of our friends’ lives. They also bragged about travels, kids and professional achievements. The closest things we now receive to the holiday newsletter are handwritten notes inside of some Christmas cards.

Even Christmas cards are fewer. I remember when we could wallpaper a room with the cards we received. Nowadays they comprise a modest pile on an end table in the living room. We get e-cards and e-newsletters instead, if that. This year we even got an e-invitation to a family wedding for the first time. We sent back an e-RSVP. I expected to attend the wedding via Skype.

That is the price of the internet. Snail mail (as it is now called) is too slow and too expensive for people. Now everyone knows everything we do as soon as we do it. Email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media have replaced the paper newsletter. There is no longer a need to provide a chronological recap of the past year.

As Joni Mitchell sang, “something’s lost but something’s gained.” The gain (I guess it is a gain) is that we now know more than we ever wanted to know about more people than we ever knew we knew. The loss is that the overall story of our lives gets lost in the daily details. The proverbial forest is lost in the trees.

Our lives are a story. Each year comprises a chapter. A holiday newsletter was a way to conclude the present chapter. Now every year is open-ended. No overarching story, just a string of events on a Facebook timeline.

We are always writing the story of our lives and our family’s life in our heads and hearts. At least I am. I am repeatedly editing my story in my head, trying to fit current events into my life’s plotline. It is the way we give our lives meaning. It is how we know how far we have come and where we might be going.

The holiday newsletter was one way to share the progress of our lives with those closest to us. That storyline has become lost in the internet age. I, for one, feel the poorer for it.  On the other hand, I may have lost a holiday newsletter, but I have gained a blog! And people like you actually read it!

So let me tell you how great my ministry is going and how beautiful and brilliant my grandkids are….. 


Anonymous said...

Fun, Marshall! I still do a family newsletter most years, and though I don't love doing it, I really like getting such news from others, so it seems only fair...Jan

Anonymous said...

I agree, Marshall! You reflected my feelings of loss from getting that handwritten letter or card from someone we miss. I love tucking away those sweet remembrances, knowing that I can revisit them sometime again.
Thanks for this blog. I really enjoy them, especially when I'm away! God bless you and Jude. I miss you two!