There’s something about receiving mail that has never lost its luster.  When I was a kid, getting mail, whether a letter or package always filled me with an excitement that was similar to Christmas morning.   Of course, as a child, getting mail was always a good thing.  I didn’t have to worry about bills, notices, election materials, or junk mail.  As an adult, I think it is even more exciting to receive personalized mail and packages.

I like to think that I appreciate the small things.  These things don’t necessarily need to be physical objects, but sometimes small things like handwritten letters or small gifts prove that something about you crossed someone’s mind with a strong enough resonance to make some sort of impression or connection causing them to take action.  I don’t know, but to me that’s pretty amazing.

This past year, I got to take part in a print exchange that was coordinated by Mike Padua of Shoot Film Co.  I got to send and receive a few prints from a complete stranger.  That was quite enjoyable.  So much so, that I am thinking of coordinating a zine/book swap.  Most recently though, I got to exchange some pleasantries with Christopher Sturm of The Photo Dept.

Chris lives in the Oakland area of California.  After messaging back and forth, I decided that since Chris and I have a love for both coffee and cameras, it would be a great idea to trade local specialty coffee beans.  In my package, I decided to send him a bag of Mountaineer Coffee’s seasonal Hill and Holler beans and I also send him a copy of my book twenty seven, twenty eight, which he ended up reviewing on his YouTube channel.  You can watch that, along with his perspective of our trade and friendship below:

Just a few days after I sent out my package to Chris, he also sent me a few things: a bag of coffee, some really nice prints, and a short hand written note. Now my three favorite things might actually be hand-written letters, coffee, and photography-related paraphernalia, so it might explain my excitement for such things even though they are so small.  I think appreciate these tangible items more because in a digital society, they have become so sparingly utilized for human connection.

Like the process of analog photography, something like human communications can be compared in the same sort of light.  Snail mail contains a lengthier process than sending a direct message to someone.  It takes time, thought, and effort.  There is a human element to it that is absent in its digital counterpart.

I guess I could get on the soap box and start making the whole “technology is ruining us” argument, but I don’t think that does much good.  In turn, I would much rather promote the positive affect tangible items have on the heart and the human condition.  Of course, being conscious of the fact that technology takes out a lot of the work and time it takes to create and send things to others is something we should force ourselves to be aware of, but I don’t think it’s enough.  I think we should act more on our thoughts and connections we make in our minds and hearts of the people we meet and care about.  It makes our days easier and our lives more pleasant.

So, whether you are taking photos or thinking about sending a message to someone you haven’t talked to in a while I think we should take a step back, think about what we are doing, and choose the route that best shows our intentions, regardless of the amount of time and effort it takes.  No matter how small the tangible item is, it’s impact will be far greater.  It’s just worth it.

Thank you, Chris.  Your package and friendship is more than appreciated.

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