The postage rate for a first class one ounce stamp increased in late January to 49 cents. Because of the introduction of “Forever” stamps in 2007, people using US Mail no longer need to buy sheets of one cent stamps because that roll of 100 stamps they just bought at the prior rate are now not enough postage. Forever stamps are great that way – it’s like a little deal with the Post Office where they wink and say “These are good ‘forever’, so when we increase the rate again in a few months, you’re all set! Isn’t that great? Why not buy 1,000?!?”
I think maybe the Forever stamp may have been a feeble attempt at self-preservation. Because “NO ONE mails anything anymore!” And, “direct mail marketing is dead!”
Then how come I still get so much mail? How come I still stand at the mailbox, flipping through and looking at everything, even the direct mail post cards? Am I a relic?
If so, I’m not alone. Even in a world of electronic communication – where email, ‘in-boxing’, and paying bills online have caused big financial problems for the US Postal Service – there is one form of communication that has no adequate E-substitute:
The Get Well Card.
Since the beginning of my Melanoma Winter, I have received approximately 75 get well cards. Genuine, cardboard paper, hand-written, stamped and mailed, get well wishes. Many arrived in the time periods around my two surgeries, thus I am unsure now when I run into people whether I still need to thank them for their card. (Anesthesia did strange things to my memory-processing during that time… Did I receive one from them? What did it look like? Did I thank them already? I CAN’T REMEMBER!!)
I have kept all of those cards, for the love represented as well as the real caring expressed in beautiful messages written into many of the cards. (Get a terrible disease >> Find out how much people really love you.)
Approximately a dozen of those cards came from my college roommate. She lives in another state a six hour drive away, raising her son, living life, and avoiding social media. We usually catch up with Christmas and birthday cards, as life often does distill an old friendship. Even considering how mailing Christmas cards seems to have fallen out of favor with most people, we still exchange our season’s greetings via snail mail. That means something.
P. and I started exchanging letters the first summer we met, just before starting our freshman year in the fall. I am pretty sure we exchanged letters during the long holiday breaks, and always during the summers, which usually took her to camps and other exciting places while I went home to work at the grocery store. We also exchanged letters when she studied in England for a semester.
Post-graduation, we then exchanged letters when P. went into the Peace Corps and served for four years in the Dominican Republic, while I went home and got a job, an apartment, and met The Husband. I saved each of her DR letters and eventually returned them to her as one big bundle, because all those adventures…she should have those letters, not me.
I miss letter writing. It is rarely practiced, and, I think, an art of interpersonal communication that is probably already lost in a generation just 10 years younger than me. Facebook and email, even texting, makes sending a “Hey” so darn quick and easy. But, whose heart doesn’t beat just a little more lively when a hand addressed envelope appears in the mailbox?
Mail? For me? Not a bill. Not a catalog. Not XYZ charity or politician asking for your support. A card, letter or postcard (oh, the postcard!) that is a tangible “hello, how are you? I miss you/I am thinking of you on your birthday/I want you to see the fantastic place where I’ve been.”
“I’m sorry this is happening to you. I love you. I want you to be healthy again.”
So when I counted up all the cards I received, and saw how many came from P., I decided to write back. It’s the least I could do.
P.’s last card back to me read that she intends to write to me every week for the next 60 weeks (the estimated time period of my chemo treatment). I immediately wrote back that I will try to match it.
It is something to look forward to – both getting her letter, and then writing back. I’m not sure we can single-handedly save the US Postal Service. But I am pretty sure some kind of saving will go on.
Go write a letter to someone. You don’t need a holiday or a life event, or even a clever, cute ‘no reason’ greeting card on which you just sign your name with a smiley face.
Here’s a challenge: If you tear out a cruddy sheet of spiral bound paper, write a REAL letter on it, and mail it in a basic business envelope, I am willing to bet that something amazing will happen. To you and to the recipient. Maybe hipsters will catch on to this “retro” letter writing thing and try to bring it back along with handlebar mustaches and anything so-old-and-nerdy/obscure-that-it’s-probably-cool.
Then, a year from now, I will write to my friend: “Hey, P.! Look…we’re cool!”