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Goeun Park: Before life became technology driven, a letter in the mail was like Christmas

If there was a popularity contest in my family based on who gets the most mail, Dad is the unequivocal winner.

Today, he is the lucky recipient of two bills, a flyer for a product I’m sure he doesn’t need and an impersonal letter from a credit card company that misses him terribly.

Four for you, Dad! You go Dad! But none for Goeun Park. (Cue sad face.)

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Postal Service. Receiving mail feels like Christmas and New Years and Pi Day all rolled in one; it’s literally the best thing in the universe. It’s so great, I’m using grossly clichéd phrases like “literally” and “the best thing” and “in the universe” to prove my point.

My obsession with the mailbox began long before the school started sending mediocre progress reports that I didn’t want my parents to see. I sent my first letter in 2002 — a year when people still relied on AOL and flip-phones were the newest and the coolest that technology had to offer. I was 8 and to call my handwriting chicken scratch would have been a grand compliment.

My first letter was a reply to a classmate who lived several blocks away from me. Back then, it made perfect sense to write letters to one another even when we lived in the same city and saw each other every weekday.

Getting mail was exciting and sending it was even more thrilling. Picking out an appropriate stamp, filling the envelope to the brim with pages ripped from coloring books, licking the seal shut, carefully dropping in a bright blue box — sending mail was art.

With a roll of stamps, the fun didn’t stop. For a social studies project in third grade, I ambitiously wrote a letter to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office requesting a pamphlet. Imagine my joy when they sent a brand new viewbook! Addressed to Mr. Gouen Park!

This was the start of a beautiful, one-sided enchantment with the postal van. (By this point, the continuous misspelling of my name and misrepresentation of my gender was old news.) In that moment, I realized that not only did the entire state of Pennsylvania care deeply about my school project, the world was smaller than I thought.

The latter realization was critical when I moved to Detroit Lakes. Writing letters to old friends became therapy. It became reassurance that I was not alone and not irrelevant. Letters do that. Feelings do that.

I’m convinced that the surest way to make someone feel special is to write them a letter, regardless of the length or content. It speaks on so many levels: I spent time making something for you. I paid almost two quarters to have a stranger deliver it to you. I care about you.

Today, my world runs on email, social networking and text messages. I use email for professional inquiries, Facebook to share information and text messages to chat with friends.

Like most people in my generation, I replaced intimacy for efficiency. I rarely make phone calls or write letters but instead opt to shoot generic texts saying, “Hey, how are you?” I wonder if I’m doing right by that choice.

So for old times sake, maybe I’ll pick up a pen and a piece of paper — something I haven’t done since school ended — and sit down. Think of someone who I care about. Write, Dear...

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School this spring and will be attending college in California this fall.