Words Left Unwritten

IMG_5516 (4)Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. (Prov. 1:8-9)

My father-in-law recommended the movie The Magic of Belle Isle to my wife and me. It stars one of my favorites actors, Mr. Morgan Freeman…


While the story is very good (I recommend the movie to anyone with Netflix), the plot is irrelevant to my post. My post has everything to do with one prop in this movie: the manual typewriter of Morgan Freeman’s character, Monty Wildhorn.


There are a few scenes in which Monty Wildhorn uses an antique, manual typewriter to write pieces of short fiction for a child, who has befriended the ornery old writer.

The typewriter stole the movie, for me. The instrument fascinated me. I decided I needed my very own manual typewriter. I was not sure how I would use it, but there was no decision to make. The appeal was to great. I would need to get one.

The appeal of the typewriter is the authenticity of the words they write. There is no delete button, backspace key, or control-z shortcut. There is only the intentionality of each keystroke and the lasting impression of the ink upon the page. Every word written requires consideration. They are genuine; and, for some reason, these words seem full of breath.

My handwriting is terrible. See for yourself:

Scan May 23, 2016, 4.16 PM

See. Terrible.

There are certain occassions which call for me to write a personalized note to  a friend, colleague, or parishioner. These times of celebration, of grieving, or appreciation require more than a form letter. They require my personal attention, my time, and my words.

As I searched for a typewriter, I also searched for a justifiable reason to have one. It occured to me to use a typewriter for these formal letters. Producing a letter on a typewriter would require my time and my attention. The words would be genuine. They would convey intentionality. Best of all, the recipients would be able to read them.

A group of women meet once a week at our church for coffee, prayer, and a short devotional. A few weeks ago, I asked the women if any of them had an old, manual typewriter. One of these women asked why I would want a manual typewriter in a digital world. I explained.

This same woman appeared in my study a week later. She was carrying a large black box. As she entered, I asked, “Is that what I think it might be?” She placed it on my desk and she offered me smile.

I was so excited. I was like…


The content of the box was a beautiful   Remington Portable Model 5 typewriter (see the title photo). These portables were builit in the early 1930’s. Myfriend received her typewritter in the early 1940’s while she was a student in the Northeast. The typewriter was in excellent condition, despite spending the last few decades in storage.

I am pretty good with techy things, so admitting I did not know how to use the typewriter was a little humbling.

My friend spent the better part of an hour giving me a tutorial of the typewriter. She identified the different levers and their functions. She taught me how to feed the paper. She informed me that the lower case “L” button was used to symbolize the number one (1). She showed me how to fit the ribbon, after teaching me about the ribbon! And, she showed me how to progress and return the cartridge.

I was like this guy, but in reverse:


photo credit: existonline.com

My friend taught me several things.  She taught me about a typewriter she used as a young woman. She based her instruction off her experience – carrying the typewriter from home to school. She was patient. She instructed me with calmness. She took her time. She gave her attention. She spoke words full of a life. And, she gave me these instructions so that I might find may way to be a little easier…

My mind began to wonder: How else have I undervalued her experiences? What insights does she have to offer, that I have failed to consider? How else have I failed to acknowledge her? 

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” (Prov. 1:8-9) 

My friend was curious to know why I would want a manual typewrtier in a digital world. I thought it was a fair question at the time –  why mess with a heavy, bulky, limited machine when the technology of my generation is much more efficient? After spending a little time with my friend, I began to interpret her question a little differently. Why would someone of my generation want something of her generation, when my generation has placed little value in anything of her generation?

In just a couple of clicks and a few seconds, we can be on the other side of our digital world. The communication of information and networking across social platforms has made acruing knowledge ridiculous.

But, what about wisdom? Are we any wiser?

Listen to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mothers’ teaching. The proverb is sound in truth. Our spiritual mothers and fathers have much to offer us. Imagine the pain, fear, and anxiety we would overcome (or avoid) if we acknowledged those who have walked before us, gleaned from their insights, and valued their experiences.

A couple weeks ago, I placed the Remington Portable Model 5 on my desk. I wrote my first letter (with a lot of errors). The letter was addressed to my friend. I used the typewriter just as she had instructed me. I took my time; I gave it my attention; and, I offered my words.

As I wrote, it became clear to me this typewriter had not fulfilled her purpose…she had words left unwritten…and that gives me hope.


Photo Credit – http://movie-dialogues.blogspot.com

7 thoughts on “Words Left Unwritten

  1. Love it! I remember those days and was so excited when I got my first electric typewriter. Maybe the manuals had a bit more thought and maybe a bit more honesty built in to the process… Sure glad you’re our pastor, by the way! Esther (and Z) Zwemer

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, right! There is something very special about the sound of the type bars striking the paper and the ringing of the bell when the cartridge returns. And, to think, my computers last about 3-5 years. This Remington Portable model 5 is fully functional after nearly 80 years!!!


      • Awesome. And there’s more … Your old and “obsolete” technology will keep on chugging long after the power grid fails.
        I also like taking a notepad to a cafe and writing first drafts in longhand. Much nicer than staring at a screen.

        Liked by 1 person

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