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Delight Your Friends: Your Handwriting and 44 Cents

News flash: I got a handwritten note in the mail.

My friend Jess took the time to write 13 sentences on a note card, expressing both thanks for a favor and support for a tricky situation I was handling. Then she affixed a stamp and dropped it in a mailbox somewhere. Two days later, it arrived at my house. I was totally bowled over.

When you work from home like I do, getting the mail is a big part of the day. The walk down the driveway, the careful glance around for wildlife, the search through the catalogs for checks from slow-to-pay employers. And when there's personal mail in there - not just hate mail from the two candidates vying for Pennsylvania's 15th district House seat - oh, boy.

Maybe I need to get out more. I called Peter Hopkins, the historian for paper company Crane, to see why I was so touched by this note. It's the handwriting that makes the communication memorable, the time someone takes to put pen to paper. Handwriting, Hopkins says, shows "sincerity, courtesy and respect, and those three things are very difficult to express in a text or an e-mail."

I feel the same way about handwriting on holiday cards. I'm old-school about them. Last week, when I ordered our family's Christmas card, I could have used the Tiny Prints mailing service. According to the site, "You can request that our staff address your envelopes, stamp them and send them directly to the recipients for you. With our mailing service, you only pay for printed return addresses (35¢ each) plus the cost of stamps. We don't charge any additional service fee to send your cards for you!"

Then the card will arrive at the recipient's house without a single word of handwriting anywhere on it. What good is that? I try to add a handwritten sentence or two to each one, some sign that I'm alive and the driving force behind the cards. Proof, hopefully, that for a moment I'm thinking about the person getting the card. Otherwise, exchanging cards feels pointless. You, high school friend, are sending me a picture of your kids. It's like mailing me a baseball card. I don't need a picture of your kids, cute as they may be. I need to know how you are!

Am I completely off my rocker? Am I the only one keeping score on these things? Try it this year, and let me know what happens. One handwritten note to a friend - just because. One handwritten holiday card, even if it just says, "Thinking of you these holidays. Hope we can get together in 2011." You never know, your high school friend might be working from home these days. In which case, trust me, it'll be a huge hit.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Seth W., CC 2.0
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