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A big stack of mail can hold a treasure
Robert Williams

What’s the first thing you do when you get to your workplace?

Are you one who makes a beeline for the coffee pot? Do you take a quick walking tour to be sure all are present and accounted for and everything is working as intended? Check the break room to see who may have brought goodies to share? Or do you launch into your routine, hurrying to get ahead of the day?

First thing I do is go through the mail.

Even in a time when much of what the post office brings is little more than direct mail advertising and more bills than a man of modest means should encounter, I approach every day’s stack of mail with optimistic anticipation.

My favorite kind of mail?

A check, of course!

Don’t receive nearly enough of those, but my next-favorite is a personal note or letter. One day last week, there, nestled amidst the junk mail and bills lay a certified gem. A real treasure. Along with it were several more memorable pieces of mail that made my day just a little brighter.

That highlight was a combination of my favorite kinds of mail: a check and a hand-written note! Jackpot!

The check wasn’t enough for me to go home early or plan for retirement but it was plenty to earn Ms. Hazel Lee another 12 months of our newspaper being delivered to her home in each Wednesday’s mail. Ms. Lee has my sincere gratitude for her check but she gained a special place in my heart when the envelope carrying her check was flipped over to the back.

There, obviously as an afterthought, Ms. Lee had jotted the sweetest words any editor can ever hope to hear: “Thank you. I love this paper.”

Subscribers are often kind enough to scribble notes on their renewal notices or drop in a torn piece of scratch pad. One local man, a few years ago, sent me his thoughts scribbled on the back of a paper sack.

Every note, every word, means someone made effort, they were determined to express their sentiments. I treasure every word.

Because I was fortunate enough to recently receive some recognition, several more have crowded my mail with sweet notes of congratulations. Each is cherished and tucked away in a file I keep where, when my mood turns somber, I can pull these joy-filled missives out and re-live quieter, happier times.

It’s amazing how adept and articulate some can be with their notes of well wishes. Few come by this naturally, I don’t think, and too few of us work to hone this talent. Occasionally, I underline a passage with a highlighter or display it on my wall so the words can continue to inspire. One local business woman’s note cards and envelope are as elegant and feminine as she is. I sniffed it, suspecting it might also carry an alluring fragrance but, if it did, the Postal Service lost it along the way. One note included a smart business card with a pretty photo.

Personal mail is becoming rarer and rarer, of course, with technology’s ease of use and its rapid pace pushing us to constantly cram more and more into our forever-limited hours. Like so many, I, too, am a slave to the digital doohickey buzzing and vibrating in my pocket and its slightly larger cousin called a laptop. And, yes, I sometime reach for one of them before I even get out of bed.

Still, as speedy and satiating as digital immediacy can be, it falls short in emulating the warmth that radiates from a scrawled note and a handwritten signature.

And tomorrow morning, the mail will arrive again.

Ican’t wait.

Robert M. Williams Jr. is an Effingham native, now living in Blackshear. He publishes weekly newspapers in Blackshear, Alma, Folkston, McRae and Forsyth. Email him at