Image by Pablo Rochat for The New York Times
These are hard times we’re in right now. Many of us feel anxious, even angry, depressed, and scared. We could all use a little more love. You know one easy and pretty fast way to spread love and make yourself and someone else feel better?
Send some snail mail! Sure, it’s easy to fire off a quick text or email or Facebook message, but taking the time and effort to hand write a message on paper, stick it in an envelope, address it, stamp it, and drop it in the mail sends an additional message of love and care because time and effort is a way of expressing those feelings. Plus, physical notes — cards, letters, newspaper clippings, etc. — can all be touched and saved and shared and visited again in a way a digital message can’t. For example, my grandmother passed away a couple weeks ago and in addition to the many cards and letters she sent me over the years, including the very last birthday card she’d ever send me, just last month, in which she could only manage to write one single work (“love”), she also left behind a large collection of cards and letters and photos and newspaper clippings she’d saved over the decades. My aunt just sent me a few of these items she thought I’d especially like, including some cards I’d sent my grandmother over the years and some articles about my grandfather when he won writing contests in his youth. My grandmother never had a cell phone or an email address or a Facebook page, and in her final years she was nearly deaf, so all of our correspondence was through snail mail, and I feel lucky now to have so many words between us I can revisit and touch and remember.
From an article in The New York Times yesterday about the importance of snail mail (which has decreased 50% in the past decade):
“Whereas emails are something to rush through on the way to Inbox Zero, cards and letters are something to cherish; to set on a desk, to stick to a fridge, to bind into a book for future generations. In the digital age, we are “assaulted by a barrage of information — much of it having little or no importance,” Florence Isaacs wrote in her book “Just a Note to Say.” “Yet personal words on paper often are saved in a shoe box, becoming a memory to be revisited through the years.”
“Saeideh Heshmati, assistant professor of positive psychology at Claremont Graduate University, recently researched what makes people “feel loved.” She found that “small gestures in everyday life,” like people supporting you without expecting anything back or showing compassion during tough times, were what participants most agreed upon as “loving.”
Since cards require more effort than email, Ms. Heshmati said recipients will likely ‘feel more loved because you took the time to do that for them.’ She added, ‘It’s the care that comes with it that signals the love.’
Like most of us, I don’t send as much snail mail as I used to. But I’m always happy to receive the occasional “real” mail amidst the bills and flyers and catalogs. It’s like a hug; it brightens my day.
I have a pen pal I’ve had since 1999 who sends me more snail mail than anyone else, and Drew is always so impressed when yet another card arrives from her. “Maybe one day I’ll meet this friend who sends the best letters,” he always says. Maybe one day I will be more like her. Maybe one day can be sooner than later. I am issuing myself a challenge and maybe you’d like to do the same: Send one additional piece of snail mail every month for the next year that you would not normally send, such as a postcard to an old roommate letting her know you were thinking of her; an inexpensive book for a child in your life; a birthday card instead of a Facebook message. Make it easy on yourself and order a pack of all-occasion cards (thank you! birthday! hello! congrats!) and a book of stamps so you’re ready whenever the opportunity of inspiration strikes. Get some pretty stationery. Update your address book.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
c/o Palo Alto University
1791 Arastradero Rd.
Palo Alto, CA 94304