On the Sending of Letters

This missive is sponsored, without their consent or approval or even knowledge, by the women and men of the United States Postal Service. Suppose a gentleman or gentlewoman asked a stranger to take a personal, written message several thousand miles away and have it hand delivered to another gentleman or gentlewoman. What would be the value of that incredible service? The USPS puts a value on that service at less than fifty cents in the currency of the realm. It remains simply the best value in public service.

On to The Topic. The physical act of receiving pieces of paper on which someone, preferably someone who holds a special place in your spleen, has pushed an ink-filled tool across said pieces of paper fills the human spirit with an odd joy. Is it that time–that oh so precious and limited commodity we take for granted always–was taken to write? That the paper and ink and stamp and envelope were handled by That One Who Loves us? That we, engaged as we are in our own rat-maze of life, crossed the mind of someone else in this lonely cosmos, and they thought enough of us to write?

Yes.

To hear, when a gentleperson comes in to the house, someone say, “You’ve a letter!” leaves, to paraphrase Philip Larkin, “Me flushed and stirred/Like Then she undid her dress/or Take that you bastard.” To pull la lettre (Note: letters are feminine in Romance languages) out of the postbox brings a wee bit of Christmas and Birthday to the recipient; it is a gift, a promise, an offering, an endowment. And, much like gifts, the joy comes in the giving.

Garrison Keillor (Who, if Dame Rumor is to be believed, is now part of the Great Disgraced/Once Beloved Club) says, “You can’t pick up a phone and call the future and tell them about our times. You have to pick up a piece of paper.” Some historians (This gentleman completely invented this reference out of whole cloth. He does that often. Too often.) argue that the invention of the cell phone and electronic communiques will confuse future historians because of the great gap in letter writing that such devices have wrought. More than a generation will have passed before (If?) we return to letter writing en masse. Perhaps, Mr. S.F.B. Morse, with apologies, God never worked the telegraph. Perhaps Old Scratch himself did.

This gentleman challenges his readers (The gentleman is an optimist–hence, the plural) to resolve to, at least weekly, pick up pen and paper or even pencil and post-card and change a life, even for an instant.

Carry on.

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