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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

You've Got Mail

1998 brought a movie to theatres starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. It’s title: You’ve Got Mail. Along with the interesting theme and excellent actors, part of the film’s appeal was the newness of e-mail. Ray Tomlinson sent the first e-mail message (to himself, computers side-by-side) in 1971, but the widespread use of this communication tool only took off after government restrictions were lifted in 1995.

In the movie Ryan and Hanks pursued an anonymous e-mail relationship. As it grew, each became more and more delighted to hear the computer voice proclaim, “you’ve got mail.” It’s a cute movie that I’d recommend for lighthearted entertainment.

There is also an old joke. A fellow mowing his front lawn sees his neighbor come out of the house and check her mailbox. Nothing’s there. She does this three more times in the course of the next half hour, each time seeming more frustrated with nothing in her mailbox. Finally curiosity gets the better of him and the gentleman crosses the street and asks if there’s anything wrong and, if so, could he help. The gal exclaims in exasperation, “My computer keeps telling me I’ve got mail, but every time I come out to check there’s nothing there!”

Movies and jokes aside, it is generally a good feeling to receive mail, e-mail inbox or end-of-driveway mailbox. The kind mail in question is a message from a family member or friend who writes because of a mutually valued relationship. Whether e-mail or snail-mail, receiving a communiqué from that person makes one feel appreciated, prized even.

The converse of you’ve-got-mail is dead silence . . . or only bills and commercial flyers in the mailbox. If that pattern is a regular one, it tends to produce a feeling of isolation . . . of not being valued or cherished. This is exacerbated if one reaches out to another and is largely ignored.

The point: write letters (short notes often do the trick) . . . and/or send e-mails to people whom you value and appreciate. Yes, yes, we’re all ever so busy with so many things “demanding” our time and effort. But oftentimes (hey, I’m looking in the mirror) we spin our wheels in such a way that things of lesser importance supplant the greater. Washing the car overrides a 10-minute call to a family member or a short how-ya-doing note to a friend.

If a relationship really is valued, the other will likely be delighted to hear the ring-tone: “You’ve got mail.” In fact, it just might make their day.

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