Write a Just-Because Letter?

The COVID lockdown may afford time for this forgotten treasure.

Posted Jun 11, 2020

pxhere, CC0, Public Domain
Source: pxhere, CC0, Public Domain

There was a time when many people would write letters for no particular reason, "just because." Such letters took more time than an email because they were handwritten, perhaps even with the envelope sealed with sealing wax.

Even today, imagine how you’d feel if you received such a letter from someone near and dear—or perhaps even more enticing—from someone far and long-lost.

For some people, the art of letter-writing is so lost that perhaps a couple of samples might be helpful in getting your ball rolling.

Dear John,

Somehow, you popped into my head—maybe it was that good talk we had a few Thanksgivings ago when I was having job problems. Fortunately, despite the COVID economic collapse, my job seems secure, at least for now.

I’m just writing because I’m finding myself with a little more time amid the COVID Stay-the-Hell-Home edict, so I thought I’d reach out to a few not-quite-friends whom I like but haven’t connected with in a long time.

I’ve always envied your calm, wry demeanor, rather the opposite of my probably too energetic self. But if you feel like a chat sometimes, let’s Zoom or, heaven forbid, go old-school and talk  on the phone. My email address is dave339@gmail and my phone number is 510-111-1111.

In any event, I’m hoping your work life and, indeed, your personal life is doing well.

Dear Sandy,

Has it been five years already? I’m now in another committed relationship but find myself curious as to how you are: your art, your kids, your parents—I recall they were already starting to have some health problems.

Amid the COVID lockdown, I’m actually working more than ever. Frankly, I’m rather Zoomed-out. The good news is that having to stay at home, my garden has never looked better. Remember when I used to cut you wildflowers from my yard? Well, now, it’s a veritable flower carpet.

If you feel like writing back or even catching up by phone or, yes, Zoom, I’d enjoy that.

An experiment

If you email me a just-because letter, I promise to email you back. You can email me via this page. Include your snail-mail address with your letter and I’ll send you a handwritten note on nice paper and in an envelope sealed with sealing wax.

Update: A prisoner wrote to me and this is the letter I wrote back to her:


Honestly, I got teary in reading your letter. You seem like millions and millions of other people who, but for a bad few decisions and bad luck, could be walking the streets living a “normal” life.  You also seem like a kind person. I so hope that you can get out of prison as quickly possible so you can do the good that you were put on this earth to do.

And, in the meantime, use that kindness and, I sense, intelligence, to be the warmest, kindest person you can be to everyone, especially your favorite inmate(s) and guard(s.), but also to everyone from your block’s guard to the person who transfers you (hopefully soon)  a better facility to your parents and other loved ones.

What, if anything, do you want to tell me about your life the led up to your incarceration and even how you got confined to solitary? It would seem so depressing, even crazy-making. Please stay strong, perhaps by reading, writing, thinking of your better tomorrows---Or maybe I’ve just watched too many prison movies.

Regarding me, given that you have email access, perhaps you also have some internet access. If you’d like to hear me play the piano, just google [“Marty Nemko” piano]

You peg me as a jack of all trades. There’s some truth to that. I’m especially good at solving practical problems, although like many Jews, I can’t fix anything—I just call the handyman. If you’d like my take on any issues you’re grappling with, just ask.

I do have weaknesses, most notably that I’m intense—working nearly every waking moment and have strongly held views. By nature, I’m prone to sadness.

Regarding our emailing, I want to say that I spend so much time emailing that I somehow welcome writing to you the old-fashioned way, although with my seismographic handwriting, it’s kinder to type the letter but put stamps I select with you in mind on the envelope and do the absurdly atavistic (very out-of-fashion) thing: use sealing wax to seal the letter, plus some antique used stamps on the back for decoration. Perhaps that’s all for naught in case in prison, they open all letters, screen them, and just give you the letter without the envelope.

I look forward to your next letter, XXXX, and deeply wish you good moments, baby steps, toward a life you’re happy with.

Marty Nemko

I read this aloud on YouTube.