Friday, July 10, 2009

Letter writing

Allow me to share a secret about myself which might lead some to think that I qualify to be a nerdy, old geezer.

I’ve started writing letters again.

You know—a letter is delivered by the postal service—they are the ones who run billions in operating debt during a year partly because no one writes letters.

You know—a letter.

No, a letter is not a Tweet answering the question, “What are you doing?” It’s not a query on Facebook sharing with the world what’s on our mind. It’s not an Instant Message that fits into the screen of a cell phone. It's not even an E-mail—let’s face it E-mail is sooooooo old fashioned, though sooooooo productive.

You know—a letter.

For those of you who have forgotten, let me share a primer on letter-writing. Start out by putting the date on the top of a piece of paper; write a salutation (that’s Dear ____); write (or in my case type) words to a person--just write what you've been doing or what's been on your mind; then put a closing (like sincerely or love); and sign your name—probably best to actually sign your name and not type it.

Then here is the really old-fashioned part—put a letter in an envelope. You know, an envelope is a flat, usually white, (for letters) paper container into which a letter goes. The envelopes most of us use are are pre-printed--meant for bills. (I guess companies don't trust that consumers have blank envelopes lying around and don't trust our intelligence to put a bill and a check into a blank envelope, so we receive pre-printed envelopes. They don't take chances in receiving their money!) Put a stamp on the envelope—it goes on the upper right hand corner—I know it’s painful to part with 44 cents. Then (and this is the nerdy part) hand-write your address on the upper left hand corner of the envelope (if you don’t want to be that nerdy just put a pre-published label that non-profits send to make us feel guilty when we don’t send them money.) Put the address of the person to whom you are sending the letter—remember an address has no symbols like @, just numbers and letters. Then walk the letter to your mail box and put the letter inside the mail box--and don't forget to put up the red flag.

When I moved from Rochester to Blaine I had to go through practically everything I owned. For a long time I saved every letter I received—this is before E-mail. To take a break from the drudgery of packing I would sneak a read of some of these letters. The letters brought back memories locked away in my brain that perhaps only a letter could unlock.

Recently I proposed to my Dad that the two of us write a letter to each other once a month. So we have. He’s only written one, and I’ve only written one. It’s a start. I’m thinking about starting that with other family members too.

Yesterday I met with a friend and somehow the topic of letter-writing came up. We both agreed that letter-writing seems to have all but vanished and that letter-writing is valuable and useful. I challenged him to write a letter once a month. I told him that I’m going to write two people a different letter once a month. I suggested that the two of us encourage each other in our letter writing.

When I started receiving E-mail in the late 90’s I printed out my E-mails and saved them. I know—very nerdy. When I finally discovered the difference between E-mail and letters I stopped. Some E-mails are longer than letters—but how many of us print E-mails and save them? Letters on the other hand. . .

Maybe we could all have a national letter-writing day. I would guess the Post office would be pleased. And we would create keys for present events that can get locked away from our future.

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