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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why today you should write someone a letter



My daughter loves to get the mail. Getting a letter or postcard is a very special occasion to her. She treasures the correspondence.

She is 8. I wonder when she’ll out grow this childish affinity.

If she’s anything like her old man the answer is never. I still love getting the mail.

Let me rephrase that. I still love getting some mail.

I still love getting paychecks, notes and invitations to parties or places to visit. I love hearing from relatives. I love Christmas cards, birthday greetings and out-of-the-blue howdies from old drinking buddies.

That means I love getting maybe one item of mail out of every 500 pieces delivered to our home.

But like our Lucy, I understand there’s still a prospector’s euphoria in retrieving the daily mail. You never know what treasures it may bestow.

Circumstances have led me to a golden revival of letter writing.

It goes back to when I was deluged with letters from people thanking me for the book.

I kept each and every one of them and for a while they covered every square exterior inch of my office beer fridge. My favorite was from a woman, the mother of a dear friend, who said my book meant the world to her. She hadn’t been feeling well.

“I have very bad arthritis in my knees and for the past few months have endured some health issues,” she wrote — in very elegant cursive, by the way. “Some days I find myself getting depressed. But since reading your book I realize I’ve been living with only dark colored crayons. Your book’s changed my whole life.”

The woman was 98.

When I die and my greedy descendants go pawing through my things in search of stocks, land titles or maybe a tattered old map to buried treasure, they will find none of those things.

But they will find that letter.

I’ll keep it forever. It is to me a true treasure.

That darling woman died a few weeks ago, just shy of her 100th birthday.

Know what I did?

I wrote my friend a heartfelt letter about what her mother’s letter means to me.

She said she was very touched. I was hoping she would be.

When was the last time you sat down and wrote an honest-to-goodness letter to someone who matters?

Take it from me, it’ll make your day as much as it does the recipient’s.

I’m actually binging on the humble act these days.

In fact, I just sent a letter to Nigeria.

It was tucked inside a crayon-signed copy of the book. Tayo Akano read about the book and e-mailed a request that I send him a free copy, as the book on page 1 promises I’ll always do.

Or is my Tayo a she? I haven’t found an artful way to ask. My research reveals Tayo is a unisex name — like Chrissie! — associated with the West African language Yoruba. One site says Tayos are known for their generosity and sexiness.

Hello, Tayo!

It costs $18.89 to send a letter and a $15.95 self-help book roughly 5700 miles from Latrobe to the city of Ilorin in Kwara, Nigeria. Whether it’ll ever get there remains a mystery.

It’s impossible to calculate the descending levels of indifference in the 100 or so postal workers who’ll need to display international competence for my letter to get from me to my sexy new friend.

They said it would take 18 days to arrive. Today will be Day 33 of the book’s odyssey, one I’m sure Homer — the poet, not the Simpson — would appreciate.

What if in two months the book has still yet to arrive?

I’ll try all over again.

I’m lately writing bunches of business letters, too. I’m finding they’re incredibly useful introductory tools.

Think about it: How many nondescript e-mails do busy executives get each day? Fifty? A hundred? More?

What could be more boring than daily sifting through that great, gray electronic muck?

Then my letter lands on their desk. It’s beautiful. He or she can pick it up. The name on the letterhead is catchy, intriguing. Each letter is signed in vivid crayon.

What could be more day-brightening?

I know.

A letter that asks for nothing. When it’s a meeting planner I’m hoping will hire me to speak to their group, I basically say hello, I’m not here to burden you, but I have something that’ll make you smile. If it does, check out my website. If that, too, makes you smile, please get in touch.

“And that’ll make me smile.”

Works like a soft-sell charm.

I think it’s because we’ve all become so defensive about being inundated with communication that is monolithic, impersonal and so artificially chipper.

With each e-mail blast, with each social media birthday greeting, the demolition of our once-charming interpersonal communication harshly proceeds.

I advise you to today set a moment aside and just jot down a little note to an old friend, a teacher or someone with whom you once shared some laughter or maybe an illicit little boink. 

It’ll make their day — yours, too. I promise.

See, when it comes to just how much an old-fashioned letter can mean to our whole lives and the letter’s unique ability to touch special places deep in our souls, I’m just like my 8 year old daughter, the one who looks forward each day to visiting the mailbox.

A really good letter is something we get.



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