As I mentioned in an earlier post, I found a lot of treasures while I was packing and moving and cleaning. One of them was a package of letters (envelopes, really) given to me years ago by my Nana. We both had stamp collections and she shared the extras with me; I had tucked them away in a “safe” place. When I pulled them out and spent a little time looking at the postmarks, the dates, and the beautiful penmanship, I finally noticed the names. I didn’t recognize most, but several of the envelopes were addressed to L.H or Mr. Henry Jackson, my great grandmother’s father. The oldest legible postmark is dated November 1895, in Newton, Iowa, which is a long way from Morrill, Maine. They stayed in touch with distant relations the only way they could: slips of paper, elegant script, and 2¢ postage.

Several weeks after finding this treasure, I visited with a high school friend whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years. It struck me that it didn’t feel like 20 years, and I realized why: we have written “letters” to each other for more than half of that time. Of course our letters are in the form of email, but they are more like letters than the chats and messages that make up the bulk of correspondence these days. I’m sure you remember what a letter is: complete sentences, whole paragraphs, and words spelled out with every letter rather than abbreviated or substituted with numbers. It’s a rare bird, so it should come as no surprise that the USPS recently announced a 2010 loss of $8.5 billion. They noted, “The recent recession, continuing economic pressures and migration of mail to electronic media had a significant adverse impact on mail volumes and operating revenues.”

I’m not knocking email and other electronic means of communicating. I engage in many of them daily and find them all useful in their own ways. But letter-writing, true connection with other people through words on a piece of paper, is becoming a lost art. And I think it’s a shame. So here’s the challenge this holiday season: if you still send out holiday cards, pick a few people from your list. If you don’t usually send out holiday cards, make a list of a few people. These should be people you haven’t seen for a while, people you have thought about but haven’t spoken to. And what I want you to do is just tell them that: I’ve been thinking of you. Maybe remind them of something fun you did with them once. Let them know that even though you’re not in touch, you remember them fondly. If you need some cards to help get started, click here or on the peppermint card picture above. It’s a PDF you can print on card stock, fold in half and cut in half again to make two cards. (These are free for your own personal use, but please do not alter or sell them.)

When I send out dozens of holiday cards, I don’t always have time to include long, personal messages in each. Most people don’t, which is why I’m suggesting a few. I’m going to shoot for at least 5, one for every week until Christmas. How about you? Are there people you want to get back in touch with?