Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

by James Glaser
April 3, 2009

The United States Post Office is going broke. Nobody writes letters any more. Sure I still get lots of mail, but most of it does not pay first class rates. In truth, most of it is junk advertisement.

However, this week I got a real letter. From whom else, my Mother. My mom is not from an e-mail generation. She still puts pen to paper and spells out words without "spell-check." Yes, I did get off a letter in return right away.

If you think about it, e-mails haven't been around that long, but they have totally revamped the way we communicate long distance. Ask a college kid what a typewriter is. Now people send text letters with their cell phones, and soon young people will ask why they are called "telephone" poles?

When a college kid comes into my gallery saying they are looking for something to send their mom or dad, I always suggest buying a card (the least expensive thing in the place) and sending a letter with it. Many think that it is a neat idea. I don't know if they like the fact they won't have to spend much, or that a letter is so quaint their mother of father will like it. It will also prove they know how to write.

I always try to explain that a hand written letter (that is readable) is something a parent will treasure. My mother has the letters I sent to her while in the Marine Corps 40 years ago—man, am I getting old. At least I am still way younger than my mom. Sorry, Mom.

If you have good penmanship, and you write to your representative in congress, rest assured that they will read it. Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone told me the story of how many senators would have a letter in their pocket from some citizen that they would pull out and start reading to show that they read their own mail. He said, almost every time it would be a hand written letter. Usually that letter would be in agreement with something that senator was trying to push, after all they are politicians. The point is, the letter got noticed by staff and was turned over to the senator. Senator Wellstone said he really got few legible, coherent, hand written letters, but his staff sent all of them on to him. Ah, maybe "coherent" is a point to remember in letter writing, too.

If you are treated special by someone, it is always nice to re-thank them. An e-mail mote is nice, but a short letter shows you really appreciate their thoughtfulness. Also, they will remember your thank you.

Do you think paper sales are down? Are paper mills hurting? Newspapers are shutting down, people don't write letters, we have e-mail and text messaging, PDF files, and a magnitude of other electronic files. Heck, we now have e-books and online catalogs. They all take a bite out of paper sales. Yes, I know about all the trees being saved. On the other hand, paper making today comes from an almost total use of a renewable resource. Popular trees die out in about sixty years and paper mills plant at least two trees for every tree they cut. I can admire tree hugging, but paper making is not an enemy to the forest.

So, back to letter writing. Like I said, it is nice to get a letter, and even nicer to receive one. Your chances of receiving one goes way up if you start writing them.

Guys, just in case there's some of you who still haven't pulled you head away from the remote control, I have to tell you, women love letters. That is why they like cards so much. You can send a women a card and just sign it. The words are already written in there for you, and still they like it. It is the fact that you took the time to pick out a card for them, and you went to the trouble of mailing it. A card in the mail from you is an unexpected surprise, and it will gain you more points than any football team can pick up in four quarters.

However, if you sit down and write out a letter, the woman may swoon, or she might think you are a total geek, but swoon is the common response. Of course, "legible" and "coherent" are very important here, too. In a letter you can say everything you wanted to say, but were too embarrassed to say in person.

Girls, guys don't like cards. They don't like Christmas cards, and they really don't like birthday cards. If you write a letter though, be forewarned, the guy is going to take what ever you say to heart. Mostly because your letter will more than likely be the only letter he has ever gotten from someone of the opposite sex—possibly the only real letter he has ever gotten from anybody. Letters from the IRS, bill collectors, and parents don't really count.

In a few more generations there won't be letters, except hand-delivered ones. Probably in a few more generations, children won't be required to learn how to write. They will step right up to a key board.

So, start writing letters, and who knows, yours might be kept for posterity as some of the last ever produced. Through letter writing you might just forge a deeper, long-lasting friendship, and when you get into the habit of writing, you will enjoy the private back and forth you can create with someone else, the anticipation while you wait for their response, the eagerness of opening the envelope, and a whole bag full of emotions and thoughts that only letter writing can bring.

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