Yesterday I read that the National Endowment for the Arts had awarded a $40,000 grant to someone to develop a video game based on Thoreau's "Walden." I thought, no wonder the Earth is in the state that it's in; the Earth is no longer real to us.
Then I came home and found a postcard in my mail box from a 13-year old named Wiebke who lives on an island. Wiebke swims in the North Sea during the summer. Reading that, I was reassured--somewhere in the world, a teenager was actually smelling sea air, walking on sand, feeling the temperature of the water.
Wiebke and I have never met. We connected through Postcrossing.com. After registering on the site, you ask to send a postcard. A name and address and an ID number will be given to you (and emailed to you). Some people ask for particular kinds of postcards, and most people give a little information about what their interests are. When they receive your card, the recipient registers it with Postcrossing, using the ID number. Your name is then added to the list of people who will receive cards.
It's an interesting blend of modern technology and old-fashioned communication. I love these brief glimpses into someone else's life. So far I've received 15 postcards from people in 10 different countries: China, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Spain and Taiwan.
While the politicians and one percent go about their dirty business, the rest of us live our lives--riding the subway, greeting colleagues, running errands on our lunch hour, stopping at the store to pick up something for dinner, checking the mail. Mixed in among the pleas for donations and announcements of amazing bargains on things we don't really need, there may be a post card. The image may be a drawing of a sparrow, a photograph of a Chinese monastery, pictures of sea shells. On the other side will be one or two unfamiliar stamps, and a handwritten message from a stranger: "Greetings from beautiful and proud POLAND! I wish you all the best. Anne." Except Anne isn't a stranger, really.
I can't explain why this makes me feel better about the world; as if these small bits of image and words that have traveled so many miles are helping to balance some sort of scale. It seems to me that they weigh heavily for things that are so light. Maybe knowing that there are people ho want to connect--ever so briefly--reassures me that we aren't as far apart as the politicians and the one percent make it seem.