In this modern age of communication convenience, it’s easy to see why most view snail mail as a thing of the past. These days, our mailboxes are mostly used for the occasional bills (and then only the ones that don’t offer an automatic or online payment), wedding invitations, birthday cards from grandparents, or magazine subscriptions. All personal communication can be accomplished much quicker through a phone call, email, Facebook message or text. So why bother with this post?
Personally, I have always had a love/hate relationship with social media,. When I first graduated from college, I vowed that I would not rely on Facebook to maintain all of the wonderful relationships I had forged in school. It didn’t seem right, and I knew from high school that it didn’t really work. Sure, you can secretly stalk that kid from your Intro to Economics Class and congratulate him when he gets that fancy new job, but there is no personal connection. You didn’t remember his birthday; you were just prompted by Facebook to say something. So I decided I would start writing letters. (A friend dubbed it the “Write Club.” The first rule of Write Club, you cannot tell anyone about Write Club …)
At first, I loved this opportunity to buy stationary — I was working at a boutique design store that was stocked full of cute and clever papers and cards. Then I realized that stationary should not be the primary expenditure on my tight budget, and I simply wrote on lined sheets of paper with ordinary, unassuming envelopes. Either way, I enjoyed sitting down and thoughtfully writing to each of my friends, who were quickly spreading out across the country. To my great surprise, a good number of them wrote back! Not a multiple-paged novel, but not a quick “Thanks! Miss you!” either. These were personal, real conversations occurring via snail mail, despite the delay in gratification. I saved each and every one, and did my best to keep up.
A family disaster, job change, and move across state halted my momentum, but a few years later I am reviving my snail mail initiative. Why? Because when I am 90 years old I don’t want to have to log into Facebook to see how my friends and loved ones are doing, or to relive old memories. I want to dig through a box of letters and start reading. I want to re-read the tiny hand-scribblings from my friend while he was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Or to re-open that ridiculous card sent to me from a college buddy, and remember all of those “good times.” Someday I want to pass this old-fashioned tradition, as well as the letters, on to the next generation. I want my future children to love the act of putting pen to paper as much as I do. And I want to create a lasting legacy, where there is no one to impress.
I encourage you to do the same. I’m not saying that you should toss your computer out the window and start practicing your calligraphy, but I do think our relationships are worth investing in for the long haul. Hallmark may invent silly holidays to try and scam us into spending more money, but they certainly did not invent the greeting card or the concept of thank-you notes. So this holiday season, consider buying a box of Christmas Cards and writing to a few of your closest friends. A personal, handwritten note can go a long way — and might be just what that person needed this time of year. And encourage your kids to join you; Besides, Santa doesn’t have great cell service at the North Pole.