11-yr-old letter writer receives hundreds of personal notes from grateful postal workers

While the 245-year old U.S. postal service battles for its survival, a story of the power of a personal letter is showing us why we cannot let it fail. Not only does USPS provide mail services to rural areas that otherwise wouldn't have anyone to deliver mail or packages, but it serves the public with diligence and heart.

A story shared by a dad of a daughter who loves to write and send letters has tugged at people's heartstrings on social media. Graphic designer Hugh Weber wrote on Twitter:


"Emerson, my 11 year old, is on a bit of a wild ride with the @USPS and our local mail carrier, Doug.

And, I think there's a deeper message to it all.

First, the backstory...

Em has a serious letter writing habit. She maintains active correspondence with over a dozen of her favorite people. And, if you've been the lucky recipient of one of Em's hand decorated letters and envelopes, then you have a pretty good idea of the joy they bring.

A letter from Emerson is likely to include some art, a joke or two, a mention of her younger brother, confessions of her love for Taylor Swift and enough questions to guarantee a response.

So, when she decided to thank our mail carrier for the service he provides us, she left nothing out. In went Taylor Swift, in went the little brother, in went the jokes.

Q: Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees?
A: Because they're really good at it.

Em wrote, "I'm Emerson. You may know me as the person that lives here that writes a lot of letters & decorated the envelopes. Well, I wanted to thank you for taking my letters and delivering them. You are very important to me. I make people happy with my letters, but you do too."

She continued, "The reason you are very important in my life is because I don't have a phone so how else am I supposed to stay in touch with my friends? You make it possible!"

She put it in the box, smiled when he took it & that was enough.

The next day a package arrived with some stamps & two letters. Doug had shared Em's letter with his supervisor, Sara, and they both wanted to share how touched they were by her note.

Sara said that, as an essential worker, Doug might not be able to maintain regular correspondence, but she sure could. Em started writing that very afternoon.

This is when things get interesting. The next week, we got a letter address to 'Mr and Mrs Weber.' It seems that Sara had shared Em's note as a 'Token of Thanks' in the internal newsletter for the Western US and there were some postal folks that wanted to thank her.

Today, we saw Doug getting out of the truck with two BOXES of letters from around the country. We snapped a quick photo through the door as he and Emerson met for the first time. It was a beautiful moment on silent reciprocity.

These letters are so deeply human. They are filled with family, pets, hobbies, community and an overwhelming sense of kindness.

Because Em was fully vulnerable, they were too.

Em shared jokes, so they shared jokes.

Em share her brother, so every gift that was sent came in duplicate.

Em shared @taylorswift13 and it turns out that the US Postal service is filled with lots of undercover Swifties.

One maintenance manager from Minnesota wanted to inspire her to start collecting stamps so he sent along two stamps of his own from the bulletin board in his office to start her collection.

And, they sent stamps to be used as well. Stamps for her to write back. Stamps for her to write others. Stamps, stamps, stamps. (218 by Em's count.)

But, there was something more in these letters. People felt seen - some for the first time in a long time.

"I work alone in a small rural post office..."
"My kids all live far away..."
"Not a lot of people think about how hard we work..."

One wrote,
"I can't tell you how much it means to read your letter..."

Another,
"I have a son in Kuwait and if you have a second to send him a letter he would love it."

And another,
"I know you can't write back to all of us, but maybe I can drop you a line from time to time?"

With dozens of new pen pals, Em did what she does best.

She wrote the dad.
She wrote his son.
She assured the secret swifties not to be embarrassed because her dad likes TSwift, too.
She acknowledged that there WERE a lot of letter but that she had time.
She sees them all.

I'm not sharing this because I'm a proud dad. I'm sharing it because it is relatively easy, if we take the time, to give others the one thing they need to be well - human connection.

I have a friend that says we all just want to be seen, known and loved.

Em does this boldly.

It's #MentalHealthAwareness month and I want to be bold and brave like Em.

We're all in a moment of physical isolation that is amplifying a real epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and depression. I've been feeling it personally since long before we locked our front door.

In the second week of quarantine, I responded to hundreds of DMs from creatives who are feeling this disconnect in a significant way. I heard from college students to senior executives who personally and professionally are stressed, worried and/or afraid.

Two weeks ago, I personally started working with a @talkspace therapist for the 1st time.

For years I've travelled the country talking about relationships of influence, but I've used that travel as an excuse not to seek the support I know I need. This pause gave me time to act.

I have incredible family & friends, but the truth is that I needed more. And, sending texts via an app has been the small step I needed.

Moral of the story: it's the small things that matter most, friends.

Send a letter.
Make a call.
Practice self care.
Take a step of boldness.
For yourself or for others.

And, thank your mail carrier (from an appropriate distance.) They are working extremely hard to keep us all connected.

And, if any of you are feeling isolated, anxious, scared or depressed, those feelings are valid. I'm feeling them, too.

And, I'm here if you need me."

What a beautiful example of humans reaching out and touching other human hearts in simple yet profound ways. In a time when we are more physically isolated than ever, seeing these sincere efforts to connect are truly hopeful. And at a time when the postal service needs support, what a lovely illustration of why it's worth saving.

To support USPS, you can buy stamps on their website. ("Forever" stamps will always work for sending a letter, even if stamp prices go up. Stock up and send grandma or an old friend a card or letter in the mail. You know they'll love it.)

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less