This is what came in the mail yesterday:
- a shoe catalog (addressed to the previous homeowner)
- an Extended Service Plan offer for my 5-year old washing machine (LAST CHANCE!)
- a flyer for Sear’s 1-Day Sale (HURRY IN!)
- a “Customer Appreciation” letter from a car dealer (WE WANT TO BUY YOUR CAR!)
- a Special Financing announcement from an appliance store (ZERO DOWN! NO INTEREST!)
- a credit card offer (YOU’RE PRE-APPROVED!)
- a utility customer service questionnaire (WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK!)
- an offer for prescription insurance (SAVE EVEN MORE!)
In other words, nothing.
In other words, a big stack of recyclable junk.
In other words, another let down.
I remember the days of waiting expectantly for the mail to arrive, an event that looked different as the years passed. While growing up it meant reaching just outside the front door to the small black box mounted on the house. In college it meant walking to the main campus building, descending to the basement level, and peeking into box 992. In apartment one, it meant unlocking box #3 in the main floor entryway. In house one, it meant walking to the end of a long gravel driveway. In apartment two, it meant driving to the post office and unlocking box #73. In house two, it meant waiting for the loud “CLANK” of the brass mail slot door in the front entry (along with a blast of cold Minnesota air in the middle of winter). Now it means walking to the end of a short paved driveway and wrangling with the honeysuckle growing up and around the mailbox post.
“Mail’s here!” has always implied a certain amount of junk mail, even when I was a kid. But it also referred to real mail. Letters. Notes. Cards. Today, though, “Mail’s here!” is pretty much synonymous with, “Meh. Why bother?”
I love technology. I love cyber communication. I love social media. But I bemoan the death of real mail, the excitement of receiving a colorful postcard, the joy of ripping open a hand-addressed envelope, the delight of reading and savoring and re-reading a lengthy letter from a friend or relative.
I have five shoeboxes of letters stashed away in a dresser drawer. Some are my own, some have been passed down from relatives now deceased. Each one is a treasure in so many ways. I can hear the writer’s voice in the lilt of the phrases, the slant of the words, the rhythm of the thoughts. The letter – held in my hand, read with my eyes, consumed with my soul – keeps the writer alive in a small way (or, in the case of the New Testament epistles, in a large way).
This is what came in the mail today:
- the schedule for a 2013 conference (BE SURE TO REGISTER!)
- a coupon for an oil change (BE GOOD TO YOUR CAR!)
- a collection of recipes from a local grocery store (KEEP YOUR FAMILY HEALTHY!)
- a reminder to renew my driver’s license (TIME IS RUNNING OUT!)
- a 12-page mattress ad (THE BIGGEST SALE OF THE YEAR!)
- a flyer for a new area dentist ($25 GAS CARD FOR NEW PATIENTS!)
- a mortgage refinancing offer (YOU QUALIFY!)
- … and … a letter – a real-live, genuine, hand-written letter from the only friend I have who still writes such things.
The dishes can wait. The laundry can wait. My email can wait. My voice mail can wait. Even my favorite book can wait.
I will be busy for awhile, soaking up the lilt of the phrases, the slant of the words, the rhythm of the thoughts. And then I will soak them up again, several times over, before folding up the pages neatly and storing them away in one of my shoeboxes. The hand-written word (oh, thank goodness) isn’t dead quite yet.