“One comfort that I relish is a letter from a close friend. The surprise of the letter in the day’s mail, the recognition of her handwriting on the envelope, the ritual of getting settled into my chair and reading and rereading her carefully chosen words.”–Deborah Chappell
I painted our ugly black metal mailbox white and used blue paint to stencil a flower and the numbers 309 on it. 309 Hoover Street in Staunton, Virginia was the first place I began to send and receive #pentopaper cards and letters. We left Ohio when I was five years old. My first grade teacher, Mrs Cobb, who would later be Delaney’s third grade teacher and is now Danica’s third grade teacher, became a pen pal when we moved away. I’d sit on the front porch swing waiting. The mail truck would stop at our house, and I would leap barefoot over the sprawling roots of the maple tree to check and see if there was a letter for me. Soon after I began collecting stamps. Every year for Christmas I would ask for the USPS Philatelic book containing every stamp released that year. A life long obsession with cards and stationary took hold as well, and I began collecting all kinds of paper. Most of all I began a love of slow, thoughtful back and forth conversations written by hand.
If you know me personally you have most likely received a #pentopaper from me. It’s been a priority most of my life, but when I became very sick I struggled with losing the ability to minister in any active way. I began setting aside a day a week to look through my address book, my facebook friends and church directory and mail cards and letters to touch base, encourage or celebrate people. I took the opportunity to pray specifically for each person I wrote. In a world where we primarily follow and respond to one another’s lives in seconds on social media or text messages if someone is very close to us, there is something incredibly intimate about receiving a letter touched by someone’s own hands, written in their unique style and penmanship, envelope licked by their tongue and carried to their own mailbox. They push the flag up as if to say, “Stop here! I have a piece of love to send today.” I’m fascinated with the logistics of the postal service. People complain about the price of stamps, but I still marvel for under fifty cents I can write you a letter, mail it from Ohio today, and you will receive it in California Thursday or Friday this week. I like to think of the journey it takes from here to there.
I have also been the recipient of hundreds of #pentopaper acts of kindness over the years. There are days a letter in my mailbox is the only contact I have with the world outside my home. The thoughts and prayers expressed in my own love language have literally rescued me. I don’t take one for granted. I cherish them all, and I hoard them. I don’t save much of anything I haven’t used in the past thirty days. My life is simple and lean, but when I die there will be my books and hat boxes, shoe boxes and Rubbermaid containers stuffed full of personal mail. The postmarks form the framework for my life’s timeline. Friends come and go. A few have stayed forever. Some people I don’t know at all, but they are praying for my family and I and supporting us. These cards and letters tell a story I love to read over and over again.
As part of my year of listening I have pulled back almost completely from responding on social media. I rarely text. When I feel myself wanting to type a few characters to express my sorrow or joy over something you’ve shared or just wanting to tell you I love you, and you are on my mind and heart, I STOP. I sit down next to my rolling cart full of paper, pens, stamps and stickers and my old fashioned address book, and I write something real and lasting and walk it down to my mailbox with a prayer. On every piece of mail I’ve sent I’ve written somewhere on the envelope the hashtag #pentopaper.
As a thank you to everyone who has taken the time to love me this way and as a challenge to those of you who aren’t really wired or disciplined to send #pentopaper much at all I am hosting a fun giveaway.
It includes the sweetest little set of jewelry with a tiny letter necklace and tiny letter earrings. I can hardly stand it they are so precious. There is also a set of “You’ve Got Mail” notecards with twenty USPS stamps and the book The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication by Margaret Shepherd.
To enter please comment here on the blog or on a social media post about a time you received #pentopaper that made all the difference. I will randomly choose a winner Monday morning, October 3rd. In the meantime think of someone who could use a note of encouragement, thanks or love and find time to write them and stick it in the mail. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #pentopaper. Let’s fill up one another’s mailboxes with kindness.