I just hit a milestone, friends: as of Monday, I’ve sent 500 cards through Postcrossing.
Remember when we talked about how much I love mail? And I shared ways to get involved and the power of the written word? Well, I put my money where my big fat trap is. I love mail and believe in its powers of connection enough that I have now sent 500 postcards to complete strangers. And I’ve loved every minute of it.
If you’re unfamiliar with Postcrossing, it’s an international postcard exchange program which asks users to send a postcard to a participant somewhere in the world. After scribbling a tracking code on your card, the recipient will use that code to register your mail — and you’ll then get a card back from someone else. It’s not a pen-pal program, and the choice to continue corresponding with the person you’ve swapped with is entirely up to you. In my experience, it’s a “one and done” kind of thing.
Over the two-plus years I’ve participated, I’ve received 481 cards from places as diverse as Taiwan, Lithuania, Switzerland, Slovenia, Malaysia and Macau. More than 100 have come from American buddies; dozens of others have arrived from countries I couldn’t place on a map. The cards themselves have featured everything from international recipes to native costume to beaches and mountain peaks — and everything in between. Some have even had poems.
Each card is a surprise — and a tiny sample of the person sending it. I’ve “met” journalists, nurses, architects. Writers and teachers and restaurant workers. Senders are young and old, male and female, gay and straight. They live in cities and farmhouses and apartment complexes. They’re single and married, parents and grandparents. These 480-plus senders fit into every demographic you can think of . . . and no one is exactly like anyone else.
But everyone is a little like someone else.
Here’s what I’ve learned from becoming a frizzy-haired one-woman American ambassador via postcards: people are people. Regardless of your native language, skin color or profession, we are all human. We love our families. Enjoy traveling. Read and write and cook and bake. We work and play, spend time with our pets, look forward to all that’s to come.
When someone sends me a postcard, they share a piece of their life with me — even if only for a moment. The glimpse at life in a far-off land is what makes the Postcrossing experience so appealing. And for someone who loves to travel? Well, “going” to Finland, Italy and Brazil via a piece of paper is a pretty delightful experience.
But I love the sharing aspect, too. Choosing just the right card for someone, telling them about my day or my life or my country, maybe offering a secret or two . . . this is the currency of human connection. When I take pen to paper, I’m offering a bit of myself on these cards — and it’s never rejected.
Postcrossing is completely awesome.
Half the world’s problems might dissolve if we could all send each other some handwritten encouragement.