Mark Ballard

Time changes everything

A reader wrote a letter to Mark Ballard asking for a cheese straw recipe. Receiving handwritten letters in the fast-moving digital age can be a joy.
A reader wrote a letter to Mark Ballard asking for a cheese straw recipe. Receiving handwritten letters in the fast-moving digital age can be a joy. Special to The Telegraph

My mind, which never stops, often wanders back down long and twisting roads I’ve already traveled. Not with regret or wishing to change things, but to simply visit the parts of my life’s experiences that formed the person I am today.

For me, life is a learning process.

What I have found on my journeys back in time is that the world changes us more than we realize. As time passes, things around us shift. This process slowly affects us with each passing day. Ever so slightly, we are ushered into a different direction and we adapt without taking much notice. The changes we’ve experienced are much clearer when we look back.

Just during my lifetime, our television sets changed from grainy black and white to high definition technicolor. Our simple, rotary-dial clunky wall and table phones morphed into sleek, flat smart phones that travel with us everywhere we go.

Writing a letter has almost become obsolete, giving in to personal computers, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Words and abbreviated messages are quickly typed and shared in an email, text or message without even the need of an envelope or stamp. Handwritten personal touches have been replaced with emojis.

We now witness world news and devastating tragedies practically the very instant they occur. Many times images are aired before the parts we or our children shouldn’t see are edited. We are shielded from nothing. One has to look no further than the chaos of the ongoing presidential campaign to understand. Name calling and insults are hurled like missiles every time your television is turned on.

We visit less face to face and FaceTime more. We now live in a world that has encouraged us to expect instant results. When we don’t get them, we become impatient. We can take photos and make videos with the press of a button on our phones and post them to social media immediately.

Everyone is in such a hurry that many times we have to remind ourselves to breathe. The human part of life is slowly becoming computerized. Drones zoom through the sky and soon cars will drive themselves. I read the other day that personal robots are marching our way soon.

I suppose that’s why I enjoy writing about the past so much. I miss some of the parts of it that we have lost over time. My memories remind me of simpler and slower times. Even if I can’t experience them now, I can take a break from the noise of today and visit with my yesterday.

It makes me so happy that writing about my personal memories encourages you to visit with some of yours. Every time I receive a message or an email from my readers, it makes me smile. But, when I get a handwritten letter, it fills me with joy! I received just such a gift the other day.

Written precisely and perfectly — in the cursive that is no longer taught in schools — was a letter from one of my readers who is 100 years old. I just couldn’t believe that she had taken the time to sit down, pen a letter, address an envelope, affix a stamp and send it to me via the post office. It made my day! Her name is Valla and she is an avid reader of my columns. I’m so honored and I hope she is reading this one.

Almost twice as old as I am, my mind couldn’t even grasp the changes she has witnessed over her lifetime. Reading her words sent me straight back to memories of my grandparents, front porches, lazy days, simpler times, glasses of iced tea and long visits.

After reading Valla’s letter I realized just how much I needed a break from today’s hectic life, so I decided to stay on my grandparents’ front porch — at least for a little while.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.