PEN, PAPER, A STAMP AND A HAND-DRAWN HEART ARE WAY BETTER THAN EMAIL
By Jerry Gervase
YOUR MAILBOX is stuffed with advertisements and bills. Suddenly an envelope slips from the pile. You catch it before it falls to the floor.
It is a greeting card, obviously for your birthday. You hold the envelope in your hand. Your name is written in the dying art of cursive. There is a canceled postage stamp in one corner. It is a magenta dahlia. The return address is written at the top left corner in a smaller hand than your address. Someone thought enough of you to buy a card, include a personal note that is much more meaningful than mass-produced impersonal sentiments, place a stamp on it and take it to a collection box or to the post office to make sure it arrives in time.
You smile. It is absolutely the first piece of mail you open. It grieves me that greeting cards now cost as much as gasoline. I remember when you could buy almost 20 stamps for what one costs today. Yet, they are bargains because the postal service needs our help. It lost $9 billion last year, which may make it the most profitable department in all of government.
The Internet connects us to the world. A snail-mail greeting card connects you to one person. It zeroes in on an amazing connection, one that the world doesn’t need to know about. It says the sender thinks enough about you to convey the very best of themselves. You are holding something they held. That tactile link sets your mind racing to where you can see a smiling face that isn’t an emoji.
Facebook and email have taken away the joy of sending and receiving snail mail. Yes, it is pleasant to receive birthday greetings on Facebook. The senders are sincere. Still, there is an artificial aspect to them. Try placing a Facebook greeting on your mantel the way you do birthday and Christmas cards. Doesn’t work, does it? What about the instantaneous aspect of Facebook greetings? Sorry, true friendship is timeless. It has nothing to do with “right now.” Nor does it have anything to do with quantity. People collect “friends” on Facebook the way ex-spouses collect grievances.
There are wonderful electronic greeting card services. I’ve been a subscriber to Jacquie Lawson for years. They’ve allowed me to save face when dates slip by and suddenly I realize I should have sent a card a week ago. There’s artificiality to them, too.
I love receiving email from readers about my columns — especially when the feedback is complimentary. I think of them as the applause live performers receive. Without them there would be the sound of only one hand clapping.
A column about crossword puzzles generated a healthy number of emails. Apparently there are a lot of puzzlers out there. One that I received came from an out- of-town reader who told me that her mother lives in Monterey and sends her my columns every week. I suggested she subscribe to the online version to automatically receive an electronic copy. Here is her amazing response: “But then I wouldn’t get an actual letter with mom’s drawing of a heart and a pink heart sticker to seal the envelope.” My own heart almost danced in my chest when I read those words. I thought of something the author Kurt Vonnegut said. “We are dancing people … the computers will do us out of that.”
Immediately, an image of Mom drawing the heart and her daughter looking at it, lovingly, leapt into my mind as I was flooded with memories of my own mother sending me hand-painted greeting cards for birthdays and at Christmas. I still have them. Now, more than 25 years after she died, I still feel I can touch her when I brush my hand over her brushstrokes. They were primitive and would never find their way into a Hallmark Store, but their ability to bridge the gap between temporal and eternal worlds is undeniable. I do not know the mom who sends my column to her daughter, but how lovely it would be to receive a note from her with a hand-drawn heart.
Without getting all touchy-feely about it, there is definitely a connectivity that is almost palpable. That is the real jewel in all our relationships. I’m sure my correspondent feels the same way when she holds her mother’s note with the hand-drawn heart. We are created to experience wonder, but we have to look for it. I’d say a letter from Mom is a good place to start.
Contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org