Jan 07

The Story of a Letter and the Kindness of a Stranger

Importance of real mail

I love mail.


I still remember the excitement that the mailbox brought to birthday season. On a warm summer morning, birds chirping lazily from the branches while bees darted busily from the fragrant jasmine bushes by the windows to the vibrant purple honeysuckle blossoms that lined the walkway, I would hear the squeak of the mailboxes out by the street and the quiet rev of the mailman’s engine as he sped back up the hill.


Rushing out front, screen door slamming behind me, my barefooted toes pattered down the stone path, under the great weeping willow, and darted onto the scalding black pavement of the quiet cul-de-sac. I headed toward the long row of mailboxes–the real kind, not the dull, uniform post office boxes that required a key, but authentic mailboxes that each house had individually picked and posted on a garage-made wooden stand. I looked at the mailbox furthest to the right; it was black, with “600” hand painted in white on the door. I remember the thrill of reaching into the great mouth of that mailbox, and the glee of pulling out envelopes with my name written on them.

Importance of real mail




I’m not sure what it is about mail that is so exciting. But all these years later, even without having a proper mailbox to rush out to, receiving mail is still a delight. Because of this, I do my best to send cards when I remember, and thankfully this year I came across some adorable Koreanized Christmas cards in time to mail them to my family for the holiday season.


In the return address section of the envelope I felt too lazy to write my entire address. It’s several rows and when translated to English it’s so long it would cross the entire envelope. Just for fun and to practice my hangul (Korean) writing, I wrote the name of my school and city in that section instead.


On Christmas day I called my family and asked if they had received the cards. My dad confirmed they had, and added that my grandma had wanted to send me a card in return. She had painstakingly copied my tiny (and sloppy) Korean writing from the top left corner of the envelope and dropped a card in the mail to me with an international stamp. As he told me this, I laughed and explained that it hadn’t been my actual address–it hadn’t even said the country name on it. “I hope she didn’t pay too much for postage! It’ll never make it!” I was actually quite disappointed because I would have loved to receive a piece of mail for Christmas.


I forgot all about it until this last Monday, when I arrived at work to see an envelope placed on my desk. My grandma’s card had found it’s way to me in Korea.

Importance of real mail

(The postal worker must’ve written in the country)

I couldn’t believe it! I spent a good five minutes chuckling to myself like a maniac. The more I thought about it, the more I reveled in the fact that this had been a work of kindness by a stranger, or several. Imagine the postal worker in rural northern California that came across this letter: this person had to first research what language this even was, and then find out which country to send it to.

It would have been so easy for the postal worker to return-to-sender, or simpler yet–trash it. Yet this kind soul did the work necessary to pass it along. Then it arrived in Korea, where another kind postal worker went out of his or her way to deliver the envelope even without a proper address.


How many times have I had mail returned to me (several weeks or months later, I might add) because the zip code was one number off or because I hadn’t articulated “street” or “lane”? And yet this piece of mail that had neither a country, zip code, nor street address written on it somehow made it’s way around the globe to me.


Maybe it was in the spirit of Christmas, or maybe these postal workers share my belief in the importance and wonder of receiving a hand-written card in the mail. Regardless, it’s the thoughtfulness in little incidents like this that give me faith in humanity. If I could, I would send them a thank-you card.


Importance of real mail
Also, major props to my grandma for copying Korean so well.


Do you send mail or enjoy receiving mail?

Photo Credits: Mailbox Photo; Mailbox Painting

  • Lauren Cowan

    Lovely ^^

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Thanks 🙂

  • salambander

    Hahaha. I met someone once who had post delivered (correctly) to “The English Man who lives next door to the Chinese Man on the hill in Port Louis, Mauritius”. 😀

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Hahaha omg WHAT?! That is truly amazing.

  • CuriosityTravels

    Wow, she did such a good job! I agree though, mail is super fun! I wish I had a bigger post box here in Spain because what isn’t fun is going to a post office to pick something up. Especially when the post offices here are a disaster and all close at 2!!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Yeah, I was so impressed with her Korean writing! You’re right, post offices totally take away from the romance of getting mail. Maybe we should arrange a carrier pigeon to bring you a letter? That would be cool haha