lovely little luxury that has been fast fading but I think is ready for a
comeback—the mail…printed and postal, that is.
colorful…multidimensional…full of interesting images and ideas. It’s quiet and
reflective and can be perused at your own pace—either now or later when time
allows. It’s one of the few mediums today that puts you in control of how you
receive it—you can either read it or throw it away…skim quickly…relish every
page…or file it away for future reference. It arrives on a simple once-a-day
schedule, rather than the never-ending stream of new e-mails that must be
quickly reviewed and sorted before the next wave arrives.
Believe it or
not, even “junk” mail is generally sent specifically to you. Paper and postage are
extremely expensive today, so businesses are very careful to mail only to
people they firmly believe will be interested in their products. You may not
feel that way when the holidays come around and your mailbox is jammed with
catalogs and promotions for chimney sweeps and credit cards. But if you take a
moment before tossing these promotions into the recycling bin, you may be
surprised to realize that there is likely a connection between your interests
or past purchases and what is being offered to you.
think of the commercials not just on network and cable television but also on
YouTube and streaming services. You are a prisoner to the interruptions of your
show and the invasion of your space.
read a web page? How many screen takeovers and pop-ups do you have to “x” out
of before you finish? And how many ads full of links are scattered across your
Mail isn’t just about promotions and catalogs. Who doesn’t get excited to see a handwritten card or letter? What about the joy of receiving birthday cards (and grandma’s check)? Or the grace of a thank-you note. My children were well-trained to send them, and it helped both my girls stand out from the crowd when searching for their first jobs out of college.
As for bills,
I consider mailed bills a handy organizational tool. Sure, I can pay my bills
online…and I do. But no-thank-you to online invoices that can get lost in a sea
of spam e-mails. When I get a printed bill, it serves as a physical and visual
reminder that a payment needs to get made. I saw it. I touched it. I put it on
a pile for future handling.
ritual to the mail. At a seminar years ago entitled “Celebrating Men,” the
leader talked about men needing transition time when they come home from work. Step
#1: Read the mail. Step #2: Change their clothes. Step #3: Go
to his cave briefly to complete his transformation into Prince Charming. The
transformation starts with taking time to look at the mail.
The art of
the mail has been powerfully demonstrated to me as we continue to sort through
my deceased father-in-law’s files and boxes. He has boxes (and I mean boxes)
of letters and postcards that tell beautiful stories dating back to his
childhood. His parents sent letters and postcards from their many trips
throughout the US and Mexico. There are letters from his grandmother, college
buddies and business associates. These are an art form that is rich in texture
and color. Now it seems that the only hand-writing we do is “journaling” in
order to reduce stress and stay present. But in the past, it was simply how people
communicated—the printed word delivered by hand. Receiving personal letters and
postcards still brings a thrill.
Every day, it seems that another magazine publisher closes its doors, crushed by the digital age. Readers neither want to pay for magazine’s content nor peruse their pages. But you can’t savor a screen shot. Touching and turning the pages of a beautiful fashion or home-decor magazine is a sumptuous experience. I marvel every month at the beauty created by my friend DJ Carey, editorial director at Cottages and Gardens Media Group, and her team. The oversized pages and phenomenal photography take me into a fantasy land that simply cannot be replicated by a video tour online.
are starting to arrive bringing a new set of products to shop for while
standing at my kitchen counter. It’s part of my own ritual each evening when I
get home. Step #1: Wash my hands—a habit formed when my children were
born. Step #2: Change my clothes. Step #3: Go on an adventure
brought to me by my local postal worker. There’s always something or someplace
fascinating to look at.
I know people in our high-tech world look down their noses at that thing called “snail mail.” It’s slow. It wastes paper. As I wrote about recently with regard to the farm-to-table movement and the hopes of a return to buying local, perhaps there is a place for a renaissance of written and printed communication that allows people to experience the messages in their way and in their own time.
Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.