Last fall, I saw a little indie film called Liberal Arts in which the main character (Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother) and his college-age love interest (Elizabeth Olsen of Martha Marcy May Marlene) write letters to each other during their months apart. The young coed sends him mixes of her favorite classical composers, and he responds with handwritten words of wisdom from the authors of his favorite books. The whole scenario was almost too precious to be taken seriously, yet somehow affected me deeply as a hopeless romantic in a post-modern world.
Letter writing is a lost art (case in point: these wickedly-worded breakup letters from literary greats) but still fully capable of a revival in the new millenillium. Hipsters are buying vinyl records instead of CDs, typewriters instead of computers and vintage finds from the Salvation Army over knock-offs from Forever 21. So why not go back to good old-fashioned letter writing as a means of creating more meaningful, artistic and uniquely personal connections with others?
The Letter Writers Alliance began as a way to unite "isolated epistle enthiasists" on a local level, and has since evolved into a worldwide organization that strives to preserve letter writing as an irreplaceable art form. Founded in 2007 by Chicago-based "paper nerds" Kathy Zadrozny and Donovan Beeson, the Alliance now includes over 2,700 members and offers a wide range of free printable downloads, exclusive member products and vintage postal items. Lifetime memberships are only $5 to start, and well worth the mere 66 cents for first-class delivery of a member card, badge, postcard and welcome letter.
Zadrozny and Beeson also run the online papergoods shop 16 Sparrows, which provides a multitude of cute and quirky cards for the unconventional letter-writer. Their devotion to "smart-ass pretty things" runs the gamut from vintage telegram stationary to velociraptor thank you notes, but their Pigeon Post invention is by far the most fun (and bizarrely awesome) of all. In fact, this idea exists on a whole other plane of awesome that words simply cannot do justice, but I will try.
Each $30 "carrier pigeon" kit includes one 13 oz. plastic pigeon that fits perfectly inside a Global Priority Mail Box, three pigeon post message forms, three mailing label pouches, instructions on how to mail and postage stamps for one mailing. Refills of message forms and mailing pouches are only $10 each, so you can keep your pigeon a'traveling on.
If this isn't the ultimate way to "put a bird on it," then I don't know what is.
In a culture that relies on impersonal emails and emoji-loaded texts as our most common forms of communication, try making someone's day with a few extra words (or better yet, a thoughtful essay) of kindness and gratitude. The gifts that I value the most in life are not necessarily the most expensive or the most showy, but rather those thoughful little gems that cost relatively nothing and were made especially for me: handwritten letters, birthday cards, paintings, collages, mixtapes, short stories, picture frames, comic books starring me and my friends in funny superhero outfits, etc.
Thank you notes in particular have become woefully undervalued these days, especially with the rapid-fire convenience of social media literally right at our fingertips. However, if you want to land your dream job, show someone that you care without blowing your entire paycheck or simply avoid the blackhole of corporate holiday greed, a heartfelt letter of appreciation will go a long way. Maybe not as far as a Hogwarts owl or carrier pigeon, but it's the thought that counts.