The last of the cards and notes for the New Year come in a slow, uneven trickle, soon to be but a memory. Second to reunions and celebrations with friends and family, these physical notes, photos and greetings are my favorite part of the end of the year rituals, helping me to stay in touch with people who are important to me, both near and far.
The post office continues to play an important part in people’s lives, judging by the crowds standing in line to mail packages and letters, either at the automated machines or at the desk. Postal workers often provide a sense of community and shared values. Our local mail carrier works long hours, every day of the year. I think he must love his job, because he always has a smile or wave for anyone passing by, including our three-year old grandson, visiting from New York. He rings the bell before leaving a package on the doorstep, knowing that we are retired and likely to be home in the late afternoon. He often is out there delivering packages long after the sun has gone down.
In other USPS-related news, Megan Brennan, the Postmaster General, will be retiring this year, having served five years in the position. Ms. Brennan agreed to stay on past her January 30 retirement date until a nation-wide search results in the naming of her successor. Megan Brennan, who embraced the concepts of customer-focused service enhanced by technology, worked for the USPS for 33 years, starting as a postal carrier. She is the 74th Postmaster General, and the first woman to serve in the position.
The Postmaster General is selected by the Postal Service Board of Directors, an eleven member board, of which nine members are appointed by the U.S. President. Two members were confirmed in 2018, and an additional three members were confirmed in 2019.
If you are a fan of travel and postcards, the New York Times’ Sebastian Modak covered 52 Places for the Times in 2019, and picked up postcards along the way. He reports that he made 92 new human friends, and 39 new dog and cat friends along the way. “51 messages sent home over the course of 11 months. 48 successfully delivered. 2019 was a highly unusual year, but I sought out little rituals form some semblance of routine. One of those was hunting down postcards and making the trip to the post office. Another was regularly chatting to all of you,” said Modak.
One of the pleasures of writing posts for Social Correspondence is getting tips from readers. Christine R. in San Francisco shared the lovely Superpowers (and Staying Power) of Greeting Cards. The Atlanta-based writer, Caroline Cox, writes, “It will always mean more to your mom to get a card from you in the mail than an email, no matter how heartfelt the words. And most men recognize that a long happy anniversary text instead of a personalized greeting card is a dump-able offense.” And greeting cards are not just for moms. Cox notes that 87 percent of surveyed millennials consider a handwritten note more meaningful than digital correspondence. She also points out the diversity of choices in the greeting card industry, including some that may once have been considered a niche market.
Perhaps you feel that your penmanship is not up to the task of handwriting your individual notes, or you simply do not have enough time. If that is the case, Francine F. in New York offers the following: The art of imperfection: People are turning to robots to write their ‘handwritten’ cards. Companies, including Handwrytten, Felt, Postable, and Letter Friend, will send a note written in pen and mailed with a Forever stamp. Some services employ real human beings to write the note, and others use robots to hold the pens. Perhaps your notes for the New Year were written by a robot.
Sadly, Letter Writers Alliance (LWA), a website devoted to encouraging the practice of letter writing, will cease operations in July 2020. Two women single-handedly managed this site, matching interested writers with pen pals, selling products, producing a blog, and more. LWA, founded in 2007, attracted 15,000 members, and has many useful directories on its site, including links to other letter-writing groups, organizations that match pen pals, and more. The site will go offline in July, so check in now for helpful tips.
People still crave handwritten cards and notes for the New Year, as well as year-round. However, according to The Art of Imperfection, “American households now receive one personal letter every 10 weeks, about half what they did a decade ago. Americans mailed 42 percent fewer holiday cards in 2018 than they did in 2008.” The lesson is clear. To receive more personal notes and letters, we need to actively write and send them.
A reminder: Social Correspondence can be reached by USPS mail at P.O. Box 31082, San Francisco, CA 94131, or firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can post a comment about any post directly on the site, socialcorrespondence.com.
Happy New Year to all!
The Art of Imperfection by Abha Bhattarai. The Washington Post Business, Dec. 21, 2019
Greeting Cards Have Superpowers by Caroline Cox. The New York Times Opinion, Jan. 7, 2020.
In a Year of Perpetual Motion, Moments That Stopped Time by Sebastian Modak. The New York Times, Jan. 6, 2020
Megan Brennan, US Postmaster General Who Frustrated Trump, Announces Her Retirement by Dominique Mosbergen. Huffington Post, Oct. 17, 2019
US Postal Service Announces Retirement of Postmaster General Margaret J. Brennan. USPS Newsroom, Oct. 16, 2019