When was the last time you received a real letter in the mail?
You might be hard-pressed to remember. In the digital age, mailing letters to friends and family is often an afterthought, when emailing and texting is faster and easier. These days, the only things you’re likely to find in your mailbox are catalogues from a company you’ve never shopped from or something about your bank account. Why buy stamps, paper, and envelopes, handwrite your message, drop it off to be sent, wait for your fellow letter-writer to receive it, and do the whole thing over again to get your answer, when you could probably send them a Bitmoji on iMessage that would get the job done in a second?
Writing letters in 2020 can almost feel like a rebellion against the fast-paced culture we live in, one where productivity and efficiency is valued above all else. Everything from food to fashion is faster, cheaper, more streamlined — all the things snail mail isn’t.
Additionally, like almost everything else right now, the United States Postal Service is strapped for money after the Trump Administration cut funding, and has been hit hard by the pandemic. Mail carriers are considered essential workers, and deliver their packages rain or shine, even in the face of hurricanes or wildfires (or pandemics). They do more than deliver mail, too — they’re the “eyes and ears in neighborhoods,” as the USPS Blog says. They check up on homeowners who haven’t picked up their mail, even return lost dogs sometimes. Those living in rural areas rely on the USPS to provide, in some cases, life saving medical supplies as well as the mail or packages that private companies like Amazon won’t deliver to.
With all of this going on, some people are beginning to write letters as a way to both support the agency and bring back some of the joy that comes with writing and receiving a handwritten letter.
Avery Beck and her friend Nora LoPilato, both freshmen at South, have started writing letters to each other for fun. “We started at the beginning of summer, when quarantine had just started,” said Beck. “Some weeks we respond [to each other] quickly, other times we’ll take a while in between letters.” Either way, the two friends enjoy letter writing not as a replacement to their usual communication, but as a way to take a moment and write about their thoughts or feelings in what can feel like a more meaningful way.
“We’ll write about old memories we have, or even just what’s going on in our houses at that moment,” Said Beck. “It’s fun to talk about stuff that’s not super current.” Both Beck and LoPilato keep the letters they send to each other. “It’s really fun to look back on them — I know Nora still has cards from years ago. It’s nice to reminisce and see what was happening back [when they were written],” said Beck.
Beck agreed that the USPS needs all the help they can get right now. “My parents have bought some stamps,” she said. “The USPS is really important, and people don’t really write letters that much anymore.”
With all of the chaos in the world right now, we can all probably benefit from taking a moment to put down the phone and pick up a pencil, paper, and stamp. Go write to somebody — because, as Beck said, “Everyone likes to get a letter.”
This article originally appeared in The Optimist.