A glorious day! I wanted to share a photo of a good day’s results from my birthday request for personal letters. As you can see from the photo below (with addresses removed to protect the innocent who participated in my experiment), I got a piece of business mail that was actually pertinent to me (marked 1 in the photo), a piece of general mail that had useful information (2), five personal letters (3), and six pieces of junk mail (4). Useful mail WON my mailbox battle today! Take that junk mail!
When I was in second grade, my mom had a great idea: we would make homemade valentines for me to give out to everyone in my class. She broke out the construction paper, paper heart doilies, glue sticks, markers and the pinking shears from her sewing kit. I was THRILLED! I thought pinking shears were the coolest scissors I’d ever seen and I loved every minute of making those cards with my mom.
After a wonderful night of valentine design, I woke the next morning, packed my homemade stash in my backpack and headed to school. When it came time to pass out the valentines, my teacher instructed everyone to go from desk to desk and slip our valentines into the construction-paper envelopes taped to the front of each student’s desk.
I froze. Everyone else had bubble-gum colored, store-bought valentines. Garfield- , Strawberry Shortcake-, and Snoopy-adorned valentines flew from the hands of my classmates. The sick feeling in my stomach told me that I was giving out valentines that were ABNORMAL and people would laugh at me. No one else had made their own cards. I must have been a freak for doing so. I was mortified, silently cursing my mom for forcing me to make these awful things that would jettison me so far from the “socially acceptable” zone that I’d never make my way back before prom.
With nothing else to hand out, I quietly slid my devastatingly crafty creations into everyone’s valentine pockets and returned to my desk filled with dread. I awaited the social fallout.
Much to my surprise, my classmates ooohed and ahhhhed over my creations. Some came and thanked me personally, telling me my valentine was their favorite. I was elated. I silently apologized to and thanked my mom for helping me make the best valentines ever. Undoubtedly I puffed up a little bit with pride.
I realized a few lessons that day:
1. Being different isn’t always devastating.
2. People enjoy receiving a thoughtful, homemade card. It makes them feel special.
3. I have an irrepressible love of craft supplies and that’s OK, people will find a way to see beyond that and love me anyway.
More than I could have foreseen on that fateful day in second grade, these lessons have served me well. Developing a certain level of comfort with being different has allowed me to live a full, authentic life (perhaps much to the chagrin of my parents during my heavy metal, black finger nail polish, leather-clad teen years). And connecting with people through cards, especially ones I make with my own two hands, has been a gift. The thrill of creating them is wonderful; having someone else derive joy from them is icing on the cupcake.
In honor of that emotion-filled day back in the early 80s, what I see as my crafting birth, I am having a valentine-making party this weekend for a few friends. I can’t wait to share pictures here with you!
I love finding handwritten letters in my mailbox. I know I’m not alone in this.
Given the prevalence of email, texting, phone communication, and online bill pay, though, it feels like my daily trip to fetch the mail makes me nothing more than a conduit from mailbox to recycling bin (do you hear me credit card companies? You’re wasting your paper and postage!). Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll find a movie or magazine to make the trip worth it.
I’ve decided I’m not going to give into this new reality easily. I am making it my life’s mission to help people reconnect with each other, and with themselves, through the handwritten word. I want to help save snail mail. I’m doing this because I know in my heart the following are true:
1. Letters forge a tangible, personal connection between two people. You both touch the same paper. You can open it like a gift, enjoy it over and over again, and hold on to it as a memento.
2. Writing and reading letters are great ways to unplug from our increasingly wired world.
3. You can share thoughts, feelings, and memories in letters that some would hesitate to do so via email or phone. A love letter spoken over the phone could sound hokey or trite, but written on nice paper in your best script can bring your lover to tears.
With these thoughts in mind, I made a birthday request this year—sent via email!—for friends and family to send me a handwritten note:
Dear friends and family,
As I walked to my mailbox today, I wondered–as I always do–if there would be any “fun” mail inside. Alas, nothing but Netflix movies and requests for me to purchase more magazines.
I realized that what I wanted most for my birthday was handwritten letters from friends and family, near and far. Will you please write me a letter, seal it in an envelope, buy a stamp and drop it in the mail? The letters can be short or long, funny or sad, in cursive or print, on gorgeous paper or on a napkin. Share what you’ve been doing, what you hope for the coming year, your biggest fear or regret, a story about your best memory, your thoughts about me, or German philosophy, or knitting, your kids, your pets, or crunchy vs. creamy peanut butter. As long as you share something of you with me, in your own handwriting, I’ll be happy.
Some of you will groan at this request, a few will happily take this on. I just wanted to let everyone know what I really wanted for my birthday…a bit more happiness in my mailbox.
I promise to return your kindness with a heartfelt, handwritten note of my own! I won’t expect that this will strike up a letter revolution right away, or expect you to write back again, but I hope it helps some of you rediscover the joy of sending and receiving letters.
Love and stuff,
Future posts will be devoted to the response I get to this little experiment, other mail-generating activities, and progress on my quest to help people reconnect with others, and themselves, through the power of the handwritten word.