A Girl Wrote a Simple Thank You Note to Her Postman and Got Hundreds of Responses
The appreciation delivered by an 11-year-old girl is returned to sender—from grateful postal service employees nationwide.
Many Americans have felt isolated and afraid this year, and the Weber family of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is no different. But 11-year-old Emerson Weber had a hobby that turned into a remarkable antidote. Em writes letters—lots of letters. One day last spring, she even wrote to her mail carrier. “I wanted to thank you for taking my letters and delivering them,” she said. “You are very important to me.”
In no time at all, Em’s simple thank-you was shared around the United States Postal Service (USPS). Many of the workers who read her thank-you note wrote her one back.
Her father, Hugh Weber, a managing director at a design company, was so moved by the response that he took to Twitter in May, mid-quarantine, to share his appreciation for the outpouring of love and the marvelous girl at the center of it.
Emerson, my 11-year-old, is on a bit of a wild ride with the USPS and our local mail carrier, Doug. And I think there’s a deeper message to it all. First, the backstory. Em has a serious letter-writing habit. She maintains active correspondence with over a dozen of her favorite people. And if you’ve been the lucky recipient of one of Em’s hand-decorated letters and envelopes, then you have a pretty good idea of the joy they bring.
A letter from Emerson is likely to include some art, a joke or two, a mention of her younger brother, confessions of her love for Taylor Swift, and enough questions to guarantee a response. So when she decided to thank our mail carrier for the service he provides us, she left nothing out. In went Taylor Swift, in went the little brother, in went the jokes: Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees? Because they’re really good at it.
Em wrote, “I’m Emerson. You may know me as the person that lives here that writes a lot of letters & decorated the envelopes. Well, I wanted to thank you for taking my letters and delivering them. You are very important to me. I make people happy with my letters, but you do too.”
She continued, “The reason you are very important in my life is because I don’t have a phone, so how else am I supposed to stay in touch with my friends? You make it possible!”
She put it in the box and smiled when he took it, and that was enough.
The next day, a package arrived with some stamps and two letters. Doug had shared Em’s letter with his supervisor, Sara, and they both wanted to share how touched they were.
Sara said that as an essential worker, Doug might not be able to maintain regular correspondence, but she sure could. Em started writing that very afternoon.
This is when things get interesting.
The next week, we got a letter addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Weber.” It seems that Sara had shared Em’s note as a “Token of Thanks” in the internal USPS newsletter for the western United States, and there were postal folks that wanted to thank her.
Today, we saw Doug getting out of the truck with two BOXES of letters from around the country. We snapped a quick photo through the door as he and Emerson met for the first time. It was a beautiful moment of silent reciprocity.
These letters are so deeply human. They are filled with family, pets, hobbies, community, and an overwhelming sense of kindness.
Because Em was fully vulnerable in her note, they were too. Em shared jokes, so they shared jokes. Em shared her brother, so every gift that was sent came in duplicate. Em shared Taylor Swift, and it turns out that the USPS is filled with lots of undercover “Swifties.”
One maintenance manager from Minnesota wanted to inspire her to start collecting stamps, so he sent along two stamps of his own from the bulletin board in his office to start her collection.
They sent stamps to be used as well. Stamps for her to write back. Stamps for her to write to others. Stamps, stamps, stamps (218, by Em’s count).
But there was something more in these letters. People felt seen—some for the first time in a long time.
“I work alone in a small rural post office …”
“My kids all live far away …”
“Not a lot of people think about how hard we work …”
One wrote, “I can’t tell you how much it means to read your letter …”
Another, “I have a son in Kuwait and if you have a second to send him a letter, he would love it.”
And another, “I know you can’t write back to all of us, but maybe I can drop you a line from time to time?”
With dozens of new pen pals, Em did what she does best.
She wrote the dad.
She wrote his son.
She assured the secret Swifties not to be embarrassed, because her dad likes TSwift too.
She acknowledged that there were a lot of letters, but that she had time. She sees them all.
I’m not sharing this because I’m a proud dad. I’m sharing it because it is relatively easy, if we take the time, to give others the one thing they need to be well—human connection.
I have a friend who says we all just want to be seen, known, and loved. Em does this boldly.
I want to be bold and brave like Em. We’ve all been in a moment of physical isolation that is amplifying a real epidemic of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. I’ve been feeling it personally.
While in quarantine, I’ve responded to hundreds of DMs [direct messages] from people who are feeling this disconnect. I heard from college students to senior executives who are stressed, worried, and/or afraid.
I have incredible family and friends, but the truth is that I needed more. And sending texts via an app has been the small step I needed. Em’s lesson to me was simple: It’s the small things that matter most.
Send a letter. Make a call. Practice self-care. Take a step of boldness. For yourself or for others. And thank your mail carrier. They are working extremely hard to keep us all connected.
And, if you’ve gotten this far, just know that you can start the same waves of goodness with the people that you count on, respect, and love. Just tell them that you miss them, love them, or just see them.