It's Thinking of You Week (Sept 19-25) this week, which is an international movement to celebrate the joy of sending and receiving hand-written notes and greeting cards.
In this age of the internet, when we can now easily dash off an email or a message to anyone instantaneously and for free, you may ask, why bother sending real mail? The process of writing a letter is slower and arguably more arduous, the time it takes for that letter to arrive is longer and unpredictable, and then there’s the cost of paper and postage. But still, there is something so precious, intimate, and joyful—something truly irreplaceable—about receiving a handwritten card or letter in the mail, especially now that it is rarer to find a personal note among cascades of bills and catalogs.
What do I find so special about real mail? As many emails and online chats/comments/messages that I send and receive each day (and there are a lot), I still find them to be somewhat distant means of communication. Bits of someone’s tone, personality, train of thought, and state of mind inevitably get lost in digital communication, even with an ever-growing and evolving choice of emojis. Lines of text on the screen don’t capture the excitement of someone’s furious scribbles, the thoughtful care behind an evenly penned line, the intensity of double underlines, and the telling record of crossed-out words and carrots followed by scrawled afterthoughts. Emails don’t allow for impromptu funny doodles around the margins, or elicit the sharing of an extra story or sentiment to fill up the blank space. They don’t show when someone signs “Love,” with extra flourish so you know they really mean it.
Emails are both time- and cost- efficient. But what’s lost in that efficiency? There is no physicality to digital correspondence outside of the words they carry. Unlike a card or a letter, you cannot tell how many times an email has been read by the state of its edges or if it has been carried around, cried over, taped up, folded and smoothed over, read and re-read—the best ones usually are. Emails aren’t saved or passed on to the next generation. They aren’t carefully stored away in drawers and boxes, deemed worthy of their space and weight.
Letters are, though. Cards are. We tape them up on our walls as everyday reminders of how and how much we are loved, tuck them away for safekeeping so we can re-read them in times when we want to revisit the past or feel close to the writer, save them and share them with others so that they can better understand us and our lives.
So, once a week, I take out a card, spend a few minutes writing to someone in my life, and pop it in the mail. Sometimes it’s to celebrate a specific occasion or life event—a birthday, new job, engagement, or graduation. Often it’s to offer words of support and friendship to someone going through a hard time. And sometimes it’s just to tell someone how important they are to me.
I have a stack of all the personal correspondence I’ve received over the last 20 years, which I periodically turn to when I am struggling, questioning who I am and my life choices, or feeling lonely. Thumbing through all of the notes people have taken care to write and share with me, I am always re-grounded in how lucky and loved I am. They show me who I was and how I’ve changed. All of the birthday cards, thank you notes, love letters, postcards from friends traveling abroad, sympathy cards—they are a record of all I’ve lived through.
I hope that my cards and letters land in similar piles in other people’s homes. I hope they remind those in my life how important they are when I’m not around to tell them in person. I hope they serve as tangible evidence of how deeply they are cared about and appreciated.
I hope you consider setting aside a few minutes to write and send someone (or many someone’s) a card or letter in the mail. Happy snail mail writing!
P.S. Check out our cards for Everyday Encouragement