As a kid I can remember getting home from school and running out to the mailbox to look for any mail that may have come for me – only to find the little black box, attached high up on the wall of the front porch of our house, empty. But this didn’t stop me; I just knew that there must be a piece of mail for me. So I turned on my heel, swung the screen door open, rushed around down the hall and round the corner into the kitchen to ask Mom or Dad, “Did I get any mail today?!”
Inevitably, the answer was typically negative, but on the rare occasion that I did receive a little envelope in the mail, I was beyond ecstatic. I mean, someone took the time to write something on a piece of paper, place it in an envelope, seal it, write my address, affix a stamp to the corner, then drop it in their mailbox to be picked up and delivered. Getting a piece of mail meant that you were someone special and important.
Remembering back to the mail that I received – and cherished as if it was $5 (remember when $5 was a LOT of money?) – the items are nothing I’d currently consider of great value. These were letters from Girl Scouts of America about the annual cookie sale, postcards about my elementary school’s book fair and information about an upcoming dance recital. Those pieces of mail were all OK, but the one letter that I can vividly remember getting was one from Wendy’s thanking me for my valuable input about their restaurant. The best part of all was that it was personalized with my name not only on the envelope, but also on the letter. Oh yeah!
How in the world did I get a letter like this, you’re asking? The always administrative and inquisitive person that I am adored filling out questionnaires and forms – even as a kid I wanted to share my opinion and learn how it compared with others’.
I think my parents and I stumbled upon this little mail-receiving scheme by accident one evening when I saw the comment card on the wall of our local Wendy’s and asked if I could fill it out. The gracious parents that I have, they obliged and located a pen for me to use while I munched on my hamburger and fries (and Frosty). On the way out we dropped it in the box and thought that was the end of it – until this gem of a letter showed up in the mailbox. I was hooked and, as I remember it, wanted to complete any questionnaire I could get my little hands on!
Multiple personalized thank you letters from Wendy’s later, my love of receiving mail hadn’t waned, although my desire to receive these particular letters did. I ultimately moved on to middle school pen pals in Europe, love notes with boyfriends, college acceptance letters, utility bills, community newsletters and “junk mail” (gasp!).
At this point I’m sure you’re wondering why this is all so important to me right now that I would take the time to blog about it? I’ve spent a significant amount of my professional career receiving copious amounts of mail. My first job out of college included opening and sorting anywhere from 50-100 pieces of mail a week to determine what was newsworthy to cover at a small weekly newspaper. My next job included a season each year where hundreds of boxes and large envelopes would be dropped off in my 6-foot by 6-foot cubicle in a matter of weeks. And in my current job I open not only my mail, but my boss’ also. But this doesn’t make up for the decline in personal mail I receive at home.
With all of my bills paid online now (And really, can a bill be considered mail? Isn’t it more of a solicitation for money?) it occurred to me that I haven’t received a piece of mail – bill or otherwise – in more than two weeks!
Mail is such a vital part of our society – for passing along information, relaying feelings and stories, sharing pictures, giving opinions and more. So much of this happens in electronic form (I love how quickly we can communicate now) that the snail mail version is left to handle mass promotional mailings, catalogs, wedding invitations and holiday cards. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it leaves a lot to be desired as far as “reading” someone’s handwriting. (Are they neat or messy? In a hurry or deliberate? Emotional or controlled?) Without realizing it, it’s as if we’re reading the body language of the writer through their handwriting without ever laying eyes on him or her.
So all this to say: bring it on! Let’s take the extra time to send a friend a handwritten note, place a stamp in the corner and drop it in the mailbox. It’ll be good for your soul and light the excitement of the little kid inside your friend!