Wednesday, May 21

Postcards for Humanity

Postcards, my friends of the pen. What are postcards? It's a small rectangle of cardboard with a short note and address on one side and a picture or even more note on the other side. They've taken many forms: you could write on a clean slice of cardstock and slip it into an envelope, and that was a postcard. In the late 1800s, in the U.S., it was not uncommon at all to bring your family to a portrait studio, have a photograph taken of your ensemble, and receive prints of your images in the form of postcards to distribute to family and friends.

Postcards were printed up for hotels, to distribute as mementos of your overseas vacation; postcards are the stock souvenir merchandise in every major metropolis, city, museum and gas station wherever you go. You can even make your own, if you want; find an interesting picture (or a lot, for a collage) and paste it to a stout piece of paper, writing all the usual stuff on the back. Make sure the destination address is lower than any other address on the card, if you're sharing your new address with friends, for example, and leave enough room at the bottom for the processing label.

Postcards have worked their way into popular culture, with so many references to "postcards from the edge" of intellect, sanity, or whatever forward-thinking guard. My brother-in-law told me an interesting story about writing a postcard in Italy, and the postal workers there tried to charge him additional postage because he wrote in tiny handscript and heavily laded the postcard with too much information. Imagine! "It was a very Italian argument," he noted with amusement.

Postcards, my brethren in ink. What does it take to write a postcard? Twenty minutes, one Forever stamp, and whatever you paid for a pen (which you can literally find lying in the street) and a postcard, ranging from free to $2, depending upon where you shop. You can scrawl out a postcard in marker; you can cram in way too much information with a fine-tip gel pen; you can inscribe your message in invisible ink for your recipient's delight. You could even paste a false layer over the back and write even more on the inside level. The format of a postcard is limited only by your imagination, which is tantamount to boundless.

Postcards are the order of the day, ye faithful who read this, ye faithful who write. There is a young man slowly going blind, on a race against time to see the most amazing things in the world before he can no longer see anything. If you have an interesting postcard, or can match the requests on his to-do list, send him a postcard.

Postcards. Every paragraph of this post will start with postcards to impress this one message into your active mind. Write a postcard to your friends, just to say hello or something silly. Write a postcard to extended family, just to keep those connections supple and healthy. You can even write a postcard to your favorite local businesses and directly express your appreciation for their existence. I wrote one to a local ice cream parlor, just to let them know they have a fan of their fine work.

But if you have some time (oh, not every paragraph...), a stamp, some ink and a postcard, please check out the Postcard Happiness Project and send a postcard to a stranger in need. These are children facing surgery, adults coping with traumatic illness, even a recent widow who just needs to feel less alone. We all love receiving mail, that's why we do what we do: either to share the joy of "this is not junk mail/bills" with friends or in prayer for receiving such mail from those we love. But we who love the post office and love the humble postcard, let us share this with some distant and far-flung stranger who needs that touch of affection.

If you can do this, if you can share 49¢ and 20 minutes, bring a little warmth into someone's life. They are not victims, they are not defeated, but they have hit a low point as we all have. They face fear or loneliness, and we have the capacity to assure them all will be well, they are not alone. For less than half a dollar and one-third of an hour, you can comfort another human being in a world increasingly bereft of comfort. In the U.S., our federal government is corrupt to the core and our politicians are wholly subsidized entities of banks, oil and firearm lobbies. At the street level, please, let us show each other we are still human. Let us reach out and hold one another's hand and assure each other, in the face of disaster and the failure of the system, we will still be there for each other with what little we have left, to the last minute.

It's just a postcard. It costs so little and means so much. Please do the needful.

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