Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Paper vs. Digital

Sometimes, I turn old maps into envelopes, like these in the 365 Letters Etsy shop.
A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar presented by two women from out of town. The seminar was being offered to the citizens of the small community in which I work. The population here is less than 9,000.

It was an evening seminar, starting at 6 p.m. The same team had presented a similar seminar at another small town about 30 miles down the road earlier in the day.

When I arrived for the seminar, I saw two women getting out of a car in the parking lot. As I mentioned, these are small Texas towns, so it's fairly easy to spot the out-of-towners, especially those from the "big city." When I got into the meeting room, I saw that I was correct in guessing that the two women in the parking lot were the presenters. I was curious why they were just getting there. Typically, the presenters would arrive early and be all set-up before any of the guests arrived.

Immediately, the two women started explaining to everyone around them that they had been driving for four hours, trying to find the town. It had taken them four hours to drive 30 miles from one town to the other, a route that has only one turn on it.

It seems they were relying on their GPS device to tell them how to get there, and, in their words, "it kept sending them down non-existent roads."

I suspended logic and refrained from asking them how they got lost on "non-existent roads." And, they were running so far behind, there really wasn't time for them to explain how they took four hours to drive 30 miles. But, the entire incident reinforced the benefits of the seemingly obsessive habit I have of checking and re-checking maps — online and printed versions — before I take a trip. I have an old-fashioned road map in my car, and before I embark on a venture, I usually spend quite a bit of time on online map sites, checking out the various routes and then printing out my final plan. The great thing about the online maps is that I can zoom in to street-level and make sure I know every single detail about my trip.

The situation reminded me of 21st century personal communication. Sometimes, digital (email, texting, social media) is fine. Other times, a handwritten letter on paper is better. And, sometimes, a combination of the two...a computer written letter printed out on paper and sent through the mail system...works best. Choose the method that is most appropriate for each situation!

Happy letter writing!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Love Letter Research

I'm always on the lookout for stories about letter writing. It's always such a joy to see confirmation that handwritten correspondence is still important to people.

This week, I ran across a story about Michelle Janning, a college sociology professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She has studied the way people keep letters, why they keep them, and so forth.

In a blog post she wrote last year, Michelle said, "I study where people store love letters, whether they are paper or digital, how often they look at them, and whether they are located “on” or “in” things. ... Interestingly, both men and women in my research prefer to save the paper love letters over digital letters like emails and texts. There’s something more gratifying about holding and folding than swiping and pinching, I guess."

You can read more of that blog post here.

You can read more about Michelle Janning's research on her blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Help Find Those Who Are Missing

In the small town of Graham, Texas, where I work, a young mother has been missing since the end of May. Leah Martin, 22, went to the local high school graduation and then disappeared within an hour of leaving the event. There's been no sign of her at all. Her family has assured everyone that she never would have left voluntarily, and they've been searching for her since she vanished.

Although Leah is an adult, her disappearance made me think of the new stamps issued by the US Postal Service just 11 days before that graduation night. The "Missing Children" stamp features the words "Forget-Me-Not" and a picture of a bouquet of the purple flowers. At the bottom of the Forever first-class postage stamp is the reminder: Help Find Missing Children.

According to the USPS website, the Postal Service has played a role in the search for missing children for 30 years. Inspired to action by “Adam,”the moving October 1983 television movie about the abduction and murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, three organizations — the U.S. Postal Service, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Valassis Communications, Inc. — cooperated on a program to feature photographs of missing children on advertising materials delivered to millions of American homes. The program officially began in May 1985. To date, about 1,900 of the nearly 3,300 children featured on these mailings have been recovered, including at least 158 as a direct result of this program.

The USPS also publishes photos and information about missing children in the “Postal Bulletin,” a biweekly publication distributed among nearly 32,000 Post Offices, adding some 600,000 employees to the search effort.

The stamps just serve as a reminder to everyone that there are missing kids out there who need to find their way home.
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