I received a very nice card in the mail this week from a customer, with a handwritten note thanking me for the stamps she received. It was a thoughtful gesture, and one much appreciated. My purpose in mentioning this pleasant occurrence is tied tangentially, but importantly, to collecting postage stamps. Virtually all of the stamps that we collect once had a very real purpose, which was to pay for the transportation of a letter or other piece of mail from one location to another. For those younger than myself, who have never known a world without an internet connection, it is difficult to convey just how important that purpose was and, at times, still is.
Let us take the example of Christmas cards. At a time when there were no texts, no emails, and no social media posts, mailed Christmas cards were a way of saying, “I’m still your relative (or friend, or associate), and am wishing you fond thoughts at this time of year.” Although ours was neither a large nor very social family, I remember my mother sitting down writing out quite a large number of cards with handwritten personal messages. (We – thank God – never adopted the uncouth habit of printing out a “family newsletter,” and I’m grateful to see that that regrettable trend seems to have ended.)
Did I, as a young boy, assist in placing stamps on those Christmas card envelopes? Honestly I don’t recall. If I had, and if I has started at an extremely young age, then the stamps might not have been Christmas stamps, because the first U.S. Christmas stamps were not issued until November 1, 1962. (As a side note, the US Postal Service issued its first Hanukkah stamp in 1996, followed in 1997 by its first Kwanzaa stamp, and in 2001 by the Eid stamp.)
Cards would go out, and cards would come back in, and I most definitely recall soaking the stamps off of those envelopes and wishing that people would just use white envelopes, not red or green ones that bled ink when submerged in a bit of warm water. I also recall wishing that we had more family and acquaintances in foreign countries.
These incoming cards also had handwritten personal notes. Aunt Emma and Uncle Joe in New Jersey would say a bit about their recent vacation to Florida, Aunt Delia would let us know that her health was fine, and Aunt Peggy would, of course, always send a Christmas card with a religious theme, appropriate for a Dominican nun. We lived in Rhode Island back then, away from most of our family in New York, and these cards made everyone involved seem a bit closer.
So what’s my point? Simply to encourage those reading this little blog – stamp collectors or not – to consider sending notes and cards with handwritten messages and real postage stamps on the envelopes to those they care about. We are, of course, all busy, and there will never be a time in this life when we are not. At my somewhat advanced age, I know this to be true. But age has also taught me that life goes by very quickly, and that many of us look back wishing that we had taken more time to tell others that they are important to us, even if just by sending a short note.
Finally, also consider sending a card to someone you don’t know who would really appreciate the gesture. Residents of nursing homes come to mind, but there are many other examples, and my belief is that if each of us took time out from social media and instead sent just one card a year to someone outside our own social circle, perhaps we could make this world a friendlier and more peaceful place to dwell.