Thursday, October 2

National Letter Writing Day. . .for that personal touch?

I love to get letters. Real letters in actual envelopes on actual paper. It's wonderful when they're handwritten, but they're fun even when typed. So an article about 100K students participating in a National Letter Writing Day really caught my attention. All of the kids are writing a letter on the same theme to a friend, family member, teacher, or someone special.

And then I learned that October 9 is World Post Day. The cynic in me whispers that World Post Day is plot by the Universal Postal Union (yes, it's a real organization and since 1874!) to sell more postal products and services.

On the other hand, well, I like letters. I like the alternative to junk mail, beg mail, and bills (oh my!). There is something compelling about a personal letter, even a typed one because it conveys a thoughtfulness and a willingness to invest time. Sure, the same information can be conveyed via email, but there's something about an actual letter.

I try to write my mother a letter every week. I type the letter because I type faster than I write and, well, it's easier for her to read. But once the letter is printed, I can make notes in the margins, add color and other stuff to make it more fun and friendlier. My mother has access to email, but her dementia makes it difficult for her to remember how to access her email. So a letter is more present for her. And it reminds her someone is thinking about her.

The Director-General of the Universal Postal Union has a quote on the organization's web site: "With more than 600,000 post offices globally, postal services are inclusive and accessible; no one gets turned away. The Post is truly a public service for every citizen, irrespective of one's position in society."

It may take longer for a letter to get to someone than an email, but the Director-General is correct that postal services are [generally] accessible. Yes, I hear that cynic whispering about lackadaisical postal workers and all the things that can go wrong. Sure. Lots of things can go wrong, but most of us get our mail.

There is no official creed for the United States Postal Service (USPS), but most of us are familiar with "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" as inscribed on the John Farley Post Office in New York City.

In 2001, in the wake of 9/11, the USPS published its Comprehensive Statement of Postal Operations and with its statement of its Fundamental Services to the People. Maybe snail mail is increasingly passé except for junk mail and beg mail, and those of us who prefer to get some publications in print. But for some situations and for some people, actual letters through the actual postal service can be a gift. And that's why the USPS modified its unofficial creed to be:
The Postal Service recognizes its responsibility in continue to provide this fundamental service. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heart, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.
I think this is a great activity for students, especially in elementary school, to practice a different form of writing. And to learn something about the postal system, which could easily connect to history and social studies which could easily connect to technology as we think about communications have changed and why that matters.

So on October 9, write letters to some friends, family members, colleagues, and/or someone special. Tell them that you're thinking about them and why you appreciate them. It doesn't have to be long. A notecard, even a postcard. Just write.