I returned home from work on Monday to find not one, but two personally addressed envelopes in my mail slot. Apart from Christmas, the contents of my mail generally consists of catalogs, bills, and advertisements. My mother-in-law and my parents are the only regular snail mail users an even their use has waned. With my bag still slung over my shoulder, I opened and read the notes. It's school library month (along with poetry month) and one of these notes was related to that, the other was just a well-timed note from a friend.
When I turned 50 (back in December), I had a few ideas as to how I should mark my birthday. The best idea I had was to write 50 notes. I couldn't decide how to choose the 50 people that would receive them -- one person for each of the 50 years? -- 50 friends chosen at random? -- 50 different ways people have helped me grow into who I am? The cards that I received this week has renewed my interest in this idea. I love the idea of surprising someone with a note, maybe I'll even begin a correspondence and we'll write letters back and forth.
I grew up having pen pals. It was what my friends and I "did." We would share our pen pal's letters. We made new friends. We learned about other parts of the world. When I was 16, I became a pen pal with a boy from Ecuador who came on the Tall Ships' visit that marked the 350th Anniversary of Boston. I was a member of Greater Bostonians chorus and we were matched up with the young sailors to be their guides for the day. I still have a softball signed by him on the day we met. Why a softball? I have no idea. We had fun and we continued to exchange letters for over a year.
I was always a letter writer. I wrote letters to friends through college. Long letters, pages and pages, that would take days to write. Somewhere along the line, I stopped writing letters and notes. In this busy, fun, and active life that I lead, there seems to be less and less time to put pen to paper. I connect with my friends all the time - through 140 character tweets, text messages, Facebook posts, Skype visits, and phone calls. My children connect with their friends this way and even send text messages and emails to grandparents. I imagine many of my students do as well. In this era where we can connect with everyone we need to through a data device, the need to put pen to paper has all but disappeared. What has not disappeared is the impact of receiving a hand-written note. These two notes that I received in the mail yesterday were gifts. I think I need to share this experience with my children and students as well. It would be so sad if letter writing disappeared. I am inspired to put pen to paper thanks to these two notes. How about you?