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A Fifth-Grader Writes A Thank-You Letter To A Mail Carrier

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Retail shops are shuttered, sports are pretty much all canceled, restaurant dining rooms closed, but throughout this lockdown, there's one thing that has stayed the same. The mail still shows up every afternoon. And there is one fifth-grader in South Dakota who is especially grateful for that. Emerson Weber - she is a prolific letter writer, and one day, she wanted to tell Doug, her mail carrier, just how much she has appreciated all the letters he's delivered for her. And so she wrote him a letter.

EMERSON WEBER: Hi, I'm Emerson. You may know me as the person that lives here that writes a lot of letters and decorates the envelopes, too. Well, I wanted to thank you for taking my letters and delivering them. You are very important in my life.

CHANG: Emerson's dad, Hugh, shared that letter with the world on Twitter, and he also shared what happened next. Both of them join us now. Hi.

HUGH WEBER: Hi.

EMERSON: Hi.

CHANG: So, Emerson, I understand that you have always loved writing letters, which is super cool to me because I know a lot of 11-year-olds would rather just be on social media, on their phones. Tell me, what is it about handwriting letters that you love so much?

EMERSON: I really enjoy the part that I can put a little bit of myself into a letter. And I can write to people, and I can decorate the envelopes especially.

CHANG: So then a few days ago, you sent Doug, your mail carrier, a letter to thank him. And can I just ask you, what made you think to yourself, I want to write my mailman?

EMERSON: Well, I'm sure I keep his hands full with many letters I send. So I really just wanted to take a chance to thank him for always delivering them.

CHANG: OK. Hugh, going to you for a moment. Emerson writes this letter to Doug and then just tell us what happened next.

WEBER: Well, I think she felt and we felt that that was the end of it. Even in a letter she wrote, she mentioned that he's a busy guy and she didn't know if he would respond back. And the next day, she got a package from Doug and from his supervisor with the local post office just saying how touched they were by her outreach and how much it meant to them that she had seen their work and seen how essential it was. A couple days went by after that and we got a letter from - addressed to us, which was unexpected, as her parents, saying we put this in the internal newsletter for the Postal Service and there are some other people that would like to write her letters as well.

CHANG: So how many letters did you get at that point?

EMERSON: I think I got about 20 to 25 letters, but they were very long. So it seems like a little bit more than that.

CHANG: (Laughter) So then, Hugh, I know that you started documenting what was going on on Twitter. And you got this huge response from, like, thousands of people. How surprised were you by all that?

WEBER: Completely overwhelmed by it. The letters that Em (ph) got from postmasters all over the country really were extremely personal. They were vulnerable. And they reflected this sense of being seen maybe for the first time in a long time. They talked about being - working alone in rural post offices or that their families were far away. And I think what she showed - and I'm quoting her actually - is that this isn't a story about a girl writing a letter. This is a story about that we can all write a letter. You know, this is a story about we can all take that step of showing gratitude and showing love. And so it's overwhelming to have the young woman that I know spark that.

CHANG: Well, before I let you go, Emerson, I know that you said you love letter writing because you get to include a part of yourself. And I hear that that includes your jokes. Can you read that part of your letter to Doug for me?

EMERSON: OK. (Reading) I have a joke for you. Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees? Answer - they are really good at it. I hope you like it. Anyway, sorry about my spelling. I am still working on it. Well, I have to go. I'm writing this at 9, and it's my bedtime. Thank you for everything you do. Bye. Sincerely, Emerson. P.S. My favorite singer is Taylor Swift. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.