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Letter writing an overlooked art

We all need to be worried about the health of the postal service and, as good neighbors, we all need to pitch in and do what we can to keep the mail comin’.

In full disclosure, my sister is a postmaster. She does not know about this column so she has neither encouraged nor influenced it. Secondly, I have keynoted at national Postmasters conventions across the country, from Philadelphia to Ft. Lauderdale to Las Vegas to Anchorage. As far as I see it, this only makes me more an expert on what I’m about to say. Trust me. There’s a story in it.

Most Americans are guilty of thinking that the postal service is supplemented by taxpayers’ dollars. It is not. It functions financially independently of the government, relying on its own stream of revenue to survive. If losses aren’t cut then post offices will be closed, jobs will be lost, delivery days will be trimmed and — gasp — we will all suffer. You may not think losing Saturday delivery is a big deal, but wait until that backlog causes your credit card payment to be late and you get a big whopping late fee laid on you.

Don’t worry, though. I have a solution. You’re too good of a friend for me to bring you a problem without providing an answer. We can help the post office, help humanity and, in the bargain, help ourselves all in one fell swoop. We need to mail more letters such as handwritten, thoughtful notes that cheer a person’s day or remind them how much they mean to us.

In a fireproof box are several beautifully handwritten letters from Mama, sent to me when I lived 800 miles away and was homesick for her homemade potato soup and some of her petting. In those letters which I re-read from time-to-time, her stories are meaningful, her advice is prudent and the imagery she conjured up is nothing short of powerful.

“Hearing your voice on the phone on Sunday night,” she wrote, “was as welcomed as rain drops would be in this terrible drought.”

Now, trust me on this: Not one of your children or grandchildren is going to print out a typewritten email and lovingly save it for years. Or put it in a fireproof box. When they move on to another computer or laptop, your emails will most likely be lost. That means that you need to sit down now — don’t delay — and write a letter of love and admiration for each of your children and grandchildren. Make it a weekly task to write at least one family member and share your wisdom or recall a piece of your childhood that will inform them of their heritage.

Here’s a novel idea: Thank you notes. I still receive them — though not as many as I should — and I know how much a well-worded thank you means. If someone can’t be bothered to say a proper “thank you” then it’s this simple: Don’t take a gift if you can’t give thanks.

Send a card to encourage someone. One Sunday at dinner, my brother-in-law, Rodney, disappeared then returned with a hand-written card which he passed around the table. Friends had clipped out a paragraph from my column where I had written admiringly of Rodney, pasted it into a card and written, “We agree!”

Rodney’s eyes watered. “It meant the world to me when I opened the envelope. It made my day for them to send that.” Of course, I didn’t refrain from saying, “Well, what about me? I’m the one who wrote the column in the first place.”

If you’re looking for an edge in courtship, try a love letter. It’s cheaper than a dozen roses and lasts a lot longer.

The point here is this: We can bring love, family history, gratitude and cheer to others and, at the same time, save the postal service.

Let’s get busy writing.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should).” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.