Returned Mail Makes You Think

Pamela Chan, Editorial

When it happened last year, it seemed a bit ridiculous.  But then it happened again.  If the universe really can send a message, I think I need to listen.

Last spring a letter arrived in my inbox.  I don’t send letters (for reasons I will explain later) and I don’t receive many. So I was a little surprised to see real snail mail in my mailbox.  When I looked closer, I realized that it was a Christmas card that I had sent to France four months prior. The addresee had moved, it seemed.

4 months!  Keep in mind that mail from Paris is usually fast.

“Where on earth has this letter been sitting?”, I wondered.

Every year I send out a good amount of Christmas cards.  The numbers have been slashed dramatically over the years, but the result is still the same.  I have to appease my husband as he chokes over the high cost of postage to mail cards within Canada, to the States and overseas.  He’s right but shh.  Don’t tell him I said that.

I reassure him that I promise to not send snail mail during the year for social reasons.

And I don’t.  And I think people know this about me.  I might send a few items to my mum and mail a parcel or two, but otherwise the days of sending smaller snail mail such as letters, cards and postcards are over. In recent years I’ve come to realize that more and more, my friends are not sending Christmas cards. My friends and I don’t even contact each other on our birthdays.  As you get passed 30, birthdays just aren’t that exciting anymore.

Recently, I received another card back that I had sent overseas. “Return unknown”, it said under writing from that country.

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“Gee, mailing cards has become a hit and miss business”, I thought.  Moreover, as I realized I hadn’t received a card from another household who usually send lovely cards, I started to wonder about the back and forth of snail mail – and especially Christmas cards.

But this got me thinking that there are so many other ways that friends use to stay in touch.  And every friend is different.  Some send the rare e-mail. Some send packages and e-mail.  Some prefer to send a text message.  Some only communicate via Facebook. Some have tried their hand at Instagram and Twitter. It’s gotten to the point where none call my phone or my cell phone to have a chat.  We don’t, for the most part, use services like Skype.

And it’s all good. And I have no expectations. And there’s no tit for tat, or however the expression goes.  I don’t pat myself on the back for being the thoughtful one to send Christmas cards. That’s my thing.  For many of my friends it’s not their thing.  That doesn’t mean that they never think about me or that I’m simply the more thoughtful one.

A little more humility is in order.

Some of my friends are so generous with their thoughtfulness in different ways.  They pay attention when I share content on social media.  They send me e-mails on a fairly regular basis to touch base.  They send a parcel or flowers.  (Flowers arrived from a friend and her family just after my husband and I averted a flood from coming into our house!) They make an effort to want to get together IRL – in real life –  as the expression goes.

And sometimes I’m not quick about replying.  Or I’m disorganized about setting get together times and there’s too much back and forth.  Every year I always enjoy choosing a gift for a friend in the States.  But I’m usually completely indecisive about what I want to get, and end up ordering later than I should.

But these same friends have the grace and humility to not be critical of others, or see themselves as the more efficient and thoughtful ones.

And I’m thankful for that.

We all know each other well enough to not read anything between the lines. What we do know is the behind the scenes.

There’s the friend who works so hard, she falls asleep on the toilet.

There’s the friend who has such a busy scheduling supporting her family and community in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities.  She’s up early and running all day in many different directions. She wouldn’t tell me that but I know it.

There’s the friend who has been struggling with a long term illness and is so exhausted.

There’s the friend who is juggling many balls, looks after 3 fur babies and still remembers everything that’s going on at my end, across two different continents.

There’s the friend who was widowed at a young age and is busy running a business and being supportive of a large family.

Every person has many obligations and copes with challenges and struggles. When they take the time to reach out – however and whenever they choose to do so – I’m happy to hear from them.

And if I’m being completely disorganized but I can get a message out, I hope they’re OK with that too. Well, I know they are because after all these years I think we know each other’s MOs well enough.

It’s not Christmas card season and, therefore, it’s not snail mail season for me.  But I have so many other tools at my fingertips if I want to communicate.  I try to use my Facebook account creatively.  I sometimes (sometimes) use e-mail. More and more friends are using Instagram, which is fun for me because I’ve been keen on photography since I was 10.  Twitter is not really an effective method for communicating with friends but, ironically, I have made social connections with people via Twitter.  And some of us even meet IRL!

How about you? What are some of your favourite and most effective ways that you are communicating with friends?

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