As the world approaches a year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the appeal of virtual happy hours and other ways of staying connected via screens has faded for many people.
Enter Canada Post, which is providing an alternate way for people to connect with those they're missing — one postcard at a time.
Earlier this week, Canada Post began distributing 13.5 million blank, prepaid postcards to every residential address in the country. In turn, the recipients mail them on to someone they're thinking of.
Leave a sweet note or a doodle on the postcard and off to the mailbox it goes, no stamps required.
"We just thought we need to do something for Canadians and try to put a smile on each other's face and to tell someone that you care about them and you've been missing them for the past year," Sylvie Lapointe, a spokesperson for Canada Post, tells All Things Considered.
Lapointe says the idea came after the postal service's marketing team saw a big jump in the volume of greeting cards over the past year, especially during the Christmas season.
"It's an extension of that, as well realizing that people needed to reach out to each other to connect to each other in a way that doesn't involve maybe an email or those Zoom calls that everybody got on in the first few months of the pandemic," says Lapointe.
There are six different postcards, in jewel tones and adorned with simple messages like "I've been meaning to write," "Wishing I were there" and "Sending hugs" in both English and French.
It's not clear how much Canada Post will spend on the campaign. But it costs roughly $1 Canadian dollar (75 cents) to mail a postcard within the country.
Canada Post is encouraging people to use the hashtag #WriteHereWriteNow to share their postcards on social media.
Among them are some angry Canadians posting invective to their least favorite politicians. But Lapointe says that response to the idea has been overwhelmingly positive, and that most people have embraced the original spirit of the campaign.
"People have been posting who they're sending the card to, and sometimes saying how difficult it can be to choose one person when you've been missing so many friends and loved ones in the past year," Lapointe says.
"A lot of people seem to be sending them to someone in long-term care, so someone who's been isolated from their family for a long time," she says, adding that others are sending their postcards to paramedics and other public health workers "who are in the news all the time and working to try to keep communities safe."
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
OK, admit it. There is at least one person in your life who you've been meaning to check in with during the pandemic, and you just haven't. I'm not judging. There are definitely a few people in my Rolodex who fit that description.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
I have been meaning to write more than a few people. But, Ari, if we lived in Canada, we would now be out of excuses. That is because Canada Post has sent a blank, prepaid postcard to every household in the country. That's about 13.5 million chances for Canadians to ping an aunt in Medicine Hat or an old college buddy in Moosejaw for free. Sylvie Lapointe is spokesperson for Canada Post.
SYLVIE LAPOINTE: We just thought we need to do something for Canadians and try to put a smile on each other's face and to tell someone that you care about them and you've been missing them for the past year.
SHAPIRO: Six different versions of the card went out to Canadians this week. Each one has a different message on the front in both French and English - messages like, wishing I were there, or, I miss you.
KELLY: Or, sending hugs. You get the idea. Lapointe says even though Canada Post just started sending out the cards, the feedback is already rolling in.
LAPOINTE: Their response has been really incredible. I have to say that it's putting a smile on people's face. We also did a national campaign with it. We ask people that are, when they're writing their postcard or when they're mailing it - to take a photo and be part of our national campaign on social media to put it up and say who you've been thinking about. Who are you sending your postcard to?
SHAPIRO: The hashtag is #WriteHereWriteNow. That's W-R-I-T-E. And, yes, there are some angry Canadians sending postcards to their least favorite politicians, but most have embraced the spirit of the project, some to the point of decision anxiety.
LAPOINTE: People have been posting who they're sending the card to and sometimes saying how difficult it can be to choose one person when you've been missing so many friends and loved ones in the past year. But it can also be something that they're doing as a family. I know for me, we're all putting a name in a hat of who we'd like to send the postcard to. And then whoever is going to win, that's the person that's going to be sent it to.
KELLY: Lapointe says they will have sent out all 13 1/2 million postcards by next week, ready for people to mail some love.
(SOUNDBITE OF YUNO SONG, "GRAPEFRUIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.