Write me a letter


A bit of a head’s up – This is going to be one of those essays where I need to wander around for a bit, connecting some seemingly random thoughts in order to ultimately arrive at my moment of realization. (So… yeah.)

Item number one

Terry and I were having a debate a few weeks ago. Nothing too significant. And, as is the case far more often than not when we debate, she had the advantage of evidence and history and facts and all sorts of similarly irrelevant and unimportant items on her side. (Which also never seems to sway me much from putting on at least some type of devil’s advocate showing, and this was no different.)

The very basic elements of the story involved sending out some thank you notes and consideration of the importance for writing these out by hand. My entire defense of not picking up a pen was founded on a very simple truth. One which I believe was the most incredibly important of all.

My handwriting isn’t atrocious.

It isn’t good enough to call atrocious.

On many days, I need to offer improvements to bring it to a level that would qualify as legible. If I could accomplish that on a regular basis, we could then discuss how I might best work on raising the quality to something one might consider atrocious.

And so, in developing these thank you notes, I had taken the time to produce what I felt were really good letters. I put thought and time into each one. I sat at the computer, typed them out, reread them and made corrections, and then packaged them up with a card.

Item number two

Envelope arrived for me about two weeks ago. Mom sent it. Inside was an article she clipped from the paper about something she thought I might enjoy seeing.

Item number three

Computers didn’t exist when I was in college.

Ok. That’s a lie. I’m not so old that chisels and rocks were being used to take notes when I was in college. We did have computers. But you would barely recognize them, and the vast majority (meaning massively vast majority) of students did not have computers.

Few people had email accounts, and even fewer had ever heard of a product called Windows.

Long distance telephone calls cost money. A LOT of money.

So, the basic approach to the world was simple: (1) Send a letter. (2) Wait 4-7 days for response.

My college years was a time when my love and appreciation for mail skyrocketed. For the cost of only some of the change in my pocket, the U.S. Postal Service would bring an envelope from me at school to home… down the east coast… across the country. Every two or three days, the U.S. Postal service would drop off a card or letter or other thoughtful collection from family and friends.

For a variety of reasons—even beyond the three noted items, and primarily writing out the thank you notes while wading through our address book to send them—it occurred to me that I miss sending and receiving mail. And, worse than that, especially given the advances in technology, I have fallen woefully and shamefully out of touch with many incredible people.

The result was some time here and there invested in thoughts of how to improve things. And I think I have an answer.

I’m going to start buying more stamps.

(Ok… ok… stay with me.)

Each month, I plan on buying a book of stamps. That’s twenty stamps. And over roughly four weeks, I will use each one. In some cases, to send a letter. In a few, to send a card. And every so often, I might put together an item or two that reminds me of someone and ship it off.

I don’t expect that I’ll see much of an increase in materials I gather from the mailbox each day. Perhaps a few extra texts and assorted emails. (Which would, on its own and even without return letters, be incredible.) My hope is that it becomes a habit for me, and I continue sending things out well into the future.

Considering the action a stamp pays for… moving a letter from sender to recipient… the cost itself is ridiculously low. And yes, I say that fully understanding that with an email account the cost from point a to point b could be argued as free. But think about those thank you notes (and such) for a moment…

When was the last time you received a communication from a friend in the mail? And let’s remove holidays and birthdays from the equation. Again, when was the last time?

How would you react to a “thinking of you” or “miss you” card from someone special that you hadn’t heard from in several months (or, several years)?

How about this scenario: You wrap up some type of personal accomplishment. A few days after it takes place and gets announced, an envelope arrives from a friend. Inside is an article about it, clipped from a newspaper, with the word “congratulations” written in the margin.

And so, yes, I’m going to start buying more stamps. I’m going to send out a few more letters and cards and such. I’m going to try to strengthen my communication and connection with family and friends.

I invite you to do the same.

By the way… for those that may be reading this and don’t see mail arriving from me in the near future, please don’t panic. I don’t have any specific plan for approaching this. Whimsy would be one of the best adjectives I could use to describe my motivations and to-do list. I don’t know that my own parents will see an increase in mail from me as a result of these efforts.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com