Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why I Still Cling to the Mailman

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why I Still Cling to the Mailman

Article excerpt

I no longer run for the mail the way I used to. I remember, prior to the e-mail age, the sense of heightened anticipation as the hour of mail delivery approached, wondering what slender, handwritten treasures would appear in my box. I once received a letter from a long-lost friend and swelled with such joy that I ran the mail carrier down and shook his hand, as if he had done a heroic deed in conveying the missive to me.

Once a day. Six days a week. That was the rhythm. Through snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night. I first learned to love the mail as a young boy. The first thing I ever received that was personally addressed to me was from my buddy Duane. We had been the fastest of 9-year-old friends. Then he moved away, to Massachusetts. The parting was difficult, but boys didn't cry.

Within the week, however, there was a letter in my mailbox. It was from Duane, and it read, "I'm OK, but I miss you." That first conveyance to me of a written word from a great distance had all the import of the first Morse code message: "What hath God wrought." It was at that moment that I became a letter writer, quickly discovering that the more letters I wrote, the more I received.

I wrote letters through elementary school, high school, college, and beyond. It got to the point where I could comfortably expect to receive a letter a day. The daily mail delivery was, for me, like a beacon at sea - something toward which my thoughts began to move upon waking. What quickened my blood, of course, was the element of surprise: From whom would the letter be today? And what would the news be?

And then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, the earth shifted. E- mail had arrived. Despite being intrigued by the new technology, I promised myself that I would never stop writing letters by hand. However, I had no control over the proclivities of others, and slowly, inexorably, and then with quickened pace, the letters disappeared from my mailbox, having been replaced with electronic "messages" (a totally different beast - in contrast to letters, all e-mails look alike). …

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