This I Believe

Both in the 1950s with Edward R. Murrow and, more recently, for four years on NPR, This I Believe was a series of passionate radio essays in which people from all paths of life (including the famous and the soon-to-be-on-radio) extolled their beliefs on family, love, war, life, religion–  anything of importance to them, a sort-of philosophy of life.  (Perhaps my favorite essay was entitled, Be Cool To The Pizza Delivery Dude.)  This would’ve been my essay, what I believe:

I believe in postcards.  I believe in travel–  that journeying from our own homes, our our daily rhythms–  is oftentimes far better than any amount of time spent in a classroom or a cubicle, and so I believe in travel:  To foreign countries and far-off, exotic places, of course!, but also to the neighboring state, to a place you return to every year.  I believe in travel.

But not everyone who believes in travel believes in postcards, of course.  Though you can get ’em at the local bookstore downtown where you go (another thing I believe in), or sometimes at the pharmacy, next to the sunblock, or even the train station, in there days of e-mail and text messages and instant messaging–  well, there’s nothing instant about a postcard.  (And no, I don’t need letters, I know I sound old.)  You think about the person you’d like to drop a short note to–  a friend back home, a favorite aunt, a relative you’ll see immediately when you get home or you won’t see in years), and you fish out your (yes, digital these days) address book.  You have to dig a stamp, and then you invariably write something banal, like, “Wish you were here!” or “Today we went fishing.”

But I don’t think it’s about what you write on the back of a postcard; I think it’s about the moment when you address  the postcard–  in that simple act, that quiet moment, you’re considering someone, you’re remembering people.  Because here’s why I believe in postcards:  Life’s moving incredibly fast!  We travel through time meeting friends of friends, adding Facebook friends, falling in and out and in love again, and through it all we acquire people.  Hundreds, thousands of people over the course of a simple lifetime, whether they’re in it for a moment, a year or as long as we shall live.  And that is why I believe in postcards–  because you get the mail, and in between everything superfluous that’s finding its way to the trash bin, mixed in with the circulars addresses to ‘Occupant’ and the bills, bills, bills, is a small square of paper addressed to you.  It’s come from a state you’ve never been, a country whose name you read in the newspaper yesterday, and it’s addressed personally to you!  And it says what all postcards really say:  ‘I’m here, I’m okay, and I’m thinking of you.’

I send numerous postcards when I travel, whether its for two days or the full month–  there’s always someone else I want to remember.  (I always try to post the card from where I am, though I oftentimes fail.)  I send postcards from my hometown.  I send postcards to properly thank people for a delicious dinner or a thoughtful gift.  Heck, I recently sent postcards to friends in Los Angeles just because.  And of course I’ve sent postcards in secret and to strangers.  And yes, in these days of iEverything, I do place some importance in holding a physical piece of paper in your hands–  even if it’s just a postcard.

The hardest part these days, of course, is tracking down people’s addresses.  So if you’re reading this and you want a postcard from me sometime, shoot me an e-mail.  Seriously.

And what of the postcards I receive?  I love that moment when you’re flipping through the mail, on a foul-weathered Tuesday, and you see a picture of a interesting place you’ve never been–  a castle or a harbor or a landscape.  (The best, of course, are the international ones, with the foreign stamp and the blue ‘par avion’ sticker.)  I display the postcard for a few weeks, considering, when I glance it, who sent it and from where, what were they doing?, and then I save ’em.  I once saw a picture of a guy who built a bookcase with all the postcards he had received over the years displayed at each foursquare–  that’ll be me someday.

I believe in keeping in touch.  I believe in dropping a note.  I believe in saying ‘thank you’.  I believe the people we meet for just one moment are really always in our lives.  I believe in the whimsy involved when you spend 28 cents to mail a card from one place to another, and the smile it puts on a friend’s face.  I believe in postcards.

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2 Responses to “This I Believe”

  1. Tommy Says:

    Would you like me to send you mine via good ol email?

  2. Jess Says:

    Today’s blog is one of the many reasons I adore you.

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