Snail Mail Blues

A cup of coffee. Most candy from vending machines. A subway token.

These items can’t be bought for 50 cents or less. People buy them anyway, without thought or complaint.

But ask people to pay more for first-class postage?

Are you insane?

On January 27, the price of a first-class postage stamp increased from 45 to 46 cents, also known as the amount of money you have jingling in your pocket or tucked under the sofa cushions (there’s probably more).

Every time stamp prices increase, people act like it’s the end of the world.

You put a letter in an envelope, place a tiny sticky piece of paper in the corner. You drop it in a box or – win for the lazy American – leave it in YOUR OWN mailbox, and a postal employee picks it up and takes it anywhere in the U.S. you want it to go.

Down the street! Iowa! California! Alaska! Hawaii!

Your mail could be at a luau in about a week for less than a half dollar.

You can’t go one block in a cab for less than $2.

And for a measly 46 cents, you can get so much more than a piece of paper.

I wrote an article recently about a woman whose father died in Vietnam when she was three. She barely remembers him, but she has a letter he wrote to her.

He sat down and carefully wrote his thoughts at that moment, leaving his indelible mark on the page. He told her he loved her in script that belongs to no one but him.

She can feel the weight of his hand through the letters pressed into the paper. She forever has the signature that can be only his.

He didn’t have the e-mail option, but if he did, it wouldn’t have been as special. Type looks the same no matter who sends it.

Personality shines through the handwritten letter. Does he cross his “t” at the top or in the middle? Does she dot her “i” with a little heart? Are her letters big or small? Does he prefer to print or handwrite?

And a hand-drawn smiley face beats a typed emoticon (and it’s right-side up).

I have a letter from my Arkansan great-grandmother, written in shaky script on paper she chose – yellow, my favorite color. Her writing looks similar yet different to that of her son (my grandfather) and her grandson (my dad). It’s a tangible piece of my family’s history.

And when she sent it in 1985, postage was only 22 cents. What a bargain!

It’s still a bargain.

I still love getting mail, but as a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Mr. Mailman brought me pen pal letters, birthday cards, and so much more.

Getting and sending mail helped me to learn to communicate better.

It taught me patience (remember waiting? It’s not so bad).

It created priceless memories.

That’s well worth 46 cents.

Some think that price is too high. Many prices are high – gallons of gas or milk, your $5 latte. But not stamps.

In fact, I don’t think they charge enough to take my envelope thousands of miles to the exact person it’s addressed to.

So join me in sending first-class mail to someone you care about (and yes, I use recycled paper and cards). We’ll share a smile and help to save the Postal Service, too.

It’ll make you feel good.

I bet you 46 cents that it will.


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