Ben letter2.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

When you get the pleasure of spending so much time with so many young people, you see culture change before your eyes.

Happily, we do not personally witness the massive reliance on smart phones, unless we are visiting campers or counselors after camp. But we do see other changes.

For example, a conversation about news consumption is quite different with teens vs parents. Parents tend to get news from “television” and “cable channels”. The teens of today have no time for such arcane devices as TVs or channels. They stream. They also gather their news from curated feeds on Instagram, Tik Tok and other platforms.

The counselors (still “the young”) learn to dial “1+” for long distance calls when they call parents. No mobile phone requires this odd convention.

They can juggle multiple tasks, but struggle with doing one thing for a sustained period of time. This realization helped us change our orientation schedule. Out went the 45-60 minute sessions, in came the very dense and rapid 20 minute sessions interspersed with physical activities.

But one area where the difference is most pronounced is snail mail.

Before I write anything else, please do not think I am being critical of anyone. Modern communication has made most mail obsolete. We can pay bills online, replace catalogs with websites, and share ideas in real time rather than over days. Not knowing how to use snail mail is like my not knowing the best technique for a buggy whip – not relevant to my modern experience.

With this in mind, turn to the photo I have shared. It is a letter from a first-time counselor. This young man is a marvel. He can fix anything, often machining his owns parts (or using a 3-D printer) when none are available. He invented a device that is now being regularly used in spinal surgeries. He can also carve, sculpt, sew and paint. The card you see is an etching. He carved the image in reverse on wood, spread ink onto the etching and pressed it into rich, thick paper.

Yes, that is an original work of art that he made as the card for a thank you note to Susie Ma’am. A similar one for me, however, has not arrived. You might ask why. Is it because Susie is more lovely and merits a more gracious thank-you?

Well, yes. That is true. But is NOT the actual reason.

The reason is in the upper right hand corner of the letter. Our polymath artist understood that letters require stamps, so he placed one on the card. A closer examination reveals that it is a 1 cent stamp.

Just shy of $0.55.

When asked about it, he replied simply. “A stamp is a stamp.”

My etching is in the postal ether. I only hope it finds its way here. I would treasure it!

Steve Sir

PS Our now 24 year-old son did the exact same thing 2 years ago – using a 1 cent stamp for a letter. My recommendation? Hide all but your “forever” stamps!