Finding a letter and saving a birthday card from your grandmother: both point to something we all have in common. Throughout history, handwritten notes have always kept us near when we’re apart, connecting us physically through our pen strokes, but some people have taken this simple act to fascinating places!
These extraordinary people have added their own unique twists to this old-school way of communicating, taking the simple act of sending messages to whole new heights! Stuffed in corked bottles, sent to the tippy-top of the world, or mailed from deep underwater, letter writing is a celebration of wonder we can access anywhere in the world.
So, dearest reader, if you allow me a stamp of your time, I’d like to deliver you an unexpected adventure across the world and time. While our friend Wi-Fi often fails us when it comes to feeling genuine connection, the people we’re about to meet have bumped the experience of receiving a handwritten letter to first-class (and I’m not talking about postage rates).
Nothing is more exciting than receiving an unexpected piece of snail mail!
From the very first epistle (or elegant, guiding message), sent by the Persian Queen Atossa in 500 B.C., handwritten letters have been making our lives brighter since before the invention of paper! Signed, sealed, and delivered—even in the age of social media—letters continue to offer hope and real connection.
“I consider letter writing an art. I connect people living far away from each other through letters.” -Rinchen Chhering, Postmaster
It’s Monday, mid-day. You’re working from home. You head downstairs, pick up your lunch delivery, and in between the doors, you remember another box—that’s right, the mailbox. Bills, with their monospaced typeface, another calendar from your neighborhood auto dealer, health insurance, and . . . uh, what’s this gibberish? Human handwriting . . . on . . . an envelope? Sweet Heavens! You glance at the sender: one line of chicken scratch and your heart leaps out. It’s who you wanted to hear from all these years.
Written words continue to thread our shared history—from simple prose on papyrus (or writing material made from reed plants of the Nile River) to records of adventure inked in new worlds, dispatches from the telegraph, and words of wisdom written in wartime. Across this patchwork of years, letters have kept us together.
One of our favorite creators, Great Big Story, gives us four tales that post the delight of written communication and why it’s here to stay. If you’re wondering why we still drop bottles of words into every major body of water or send love letters to the phenomenon that is Shakespeare’s Juliet Club—the following stories will inspire you to pen more magic into your own life!
Letters Last a Lifetime
I was three when I imported into America—par avion. As I looked out the window of my new home of Palmer, Massachusetts, I watched our gruff neighbor, Jeff, stuff gingerbread cookies in our mailbox. Each Sunday, before breakfast, our mailman of kindness honked his horn as our little red mailbox flag stood in salute to our immigrant family. These days, I’m thirty, and Jeff drives away all the time, uphill, into my memories. His deliveries will never be forgotten, and certainly paid forward, as soon as I start baking words of gratitude for the people in my life.
Our mailboxes can be little epicenters of kindness if we use them right.
If Rinchen can use his living room as the world’s most remote post office for over thirty five years (and stay open through the weekend), I’m hoping each one of us can find an hour to find the right words.
Handwriting letters or putting together care packages for loved ones (or new neighbors, like Jeff) offer us the pauses we seldom have in our day-to-day lives. We rest, re-read, contemplate where we are, and send off tokens of ourselves throughout the world.
So, will you cast away your own message on your next fishing trip? If some of us share our worlds with strangers, be it the glass planets we’ve made at home, or painted eggs, imagine how your loose-leaf scribbles will bridge the gap of an old friendship? Perhaps you will reconnect with an aunt you never really knew, or an old colleague, with whom you shared the best happy hours.
Why not pen a quick note to someone who has helped you out recently? A mentor? Someone who may not know that they’ve had an impact on your life? A childhood friend? A distanced family member? You never know how finding your words in the mail will move them—especially if it arrives by carrier pigeon.
I’m sealing my promise with sincere glue, and you, dear reader, whose mailbox will you surprise and who is your cue?
Perhaps you’re already looking at that mug of ballpoints on your desk.
“More than kisses letters mingle souls.” — John Donne
- Boris Riabov
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- Great Big Story. “Mailing Letters Under the Sea, to the Highest Post Office in the World.” YouTube, 13 Aug. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNj0mOfIrIA&feature=emb_title. Accessed 22 Oct. 2020. ↩