I'm just old enough to remember the enthusiastic robot's voice AOL employed to announce, You've got mail!

The computer always took so long to power up. At thirteen, I could hardly contain myself. Hand on the mouse, waiting. I could see the little gray mailbox before anything else: an icon which a world on the cusp of the Internet Age understood as a receptacle for letters and packages. It was something familiar and tangible to cling to as we tried to wrap our heads around the advent of electronic mail. No need to comprehend the sequence of ones and zeroes. Just mail on a screen. The how didn't matter.

And just as we'd always loved seeing the mailman in his blue shorts and eagle-patched shirtsleeves stop at our house to leave real letters, we were suddenly excited to see the little red flag on the digital mailbox tick up. To see the door pop upon to reveal a stack of little white e-letters inside.

You've got mail. Oh, those words were a thrill.

Now, email is rote. A burden, an addiction. It has worn down our pioneer patience to a nub of ADHD. My email tab is open all day, everyday. (It's open now. Checked it. Nothing new.)

But the beautiful irony of two decades of instant gratification is that, for me, it's only enhanced how much I enjoy receiving real mail. Snail mail. The stamped kind. From all over the world.

That's why I signed up for the Postcrossing project. Send postcards to strangers; receive postcards from strangers. I've sent and received about 57 over the last three years. I recommend it to everyone! Learn about culture and geography and the exquisite similarities of human nature. Collect stamps. Get inspired to travel to new destinations. All and easily with Postcrossing.

You never know when one will arrive, either. A treat. A treasure.

But yesterday, I got something better.

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Out of the clear blue. A postcard from a thoughtful, curious, cultured young woman named Natalie. No return address, otherwise, I'd certainly return the favor. Instead, I'll just put it here.

Dear Natalie,

Your kind note and colorful postcard made my Wednesday. Thank you for sending it to me. "Just because" remains to be the best reason to send mail, whether e- or snail-, to friends and strangers alike. I hope you never stop being the kind of person who would take the time to send a few short, kind sentences to someone you don't know.

Have you ever heard of Auntie Mame? She was a woman who lived life with gusto! She gathered people to her because she was warm, generous, fun, and funny. In the 1950s, actress Rosalind Russell made a movie about her life. Mame's mantra was this:

Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!

Your postcard to me is evidence enough that you are ready to take your place at that banquet table. Good for you!

Jonathan and I haven't been to Warsaw yet, but there's a green pin in our world map, so we'll get there soon. Have a wonderful summer, and I wish all good things!



P.S. Mr. P. is pretty awesome, isn't he? I'm so glad you enjoyed his class. He's one of the best teachers I've ever known, and he's certainly the best Dad I could have asked for.