Handwritten letters are becoming a rare art for many but not for 11-year-old Emerson Weber of Sioux Falls, SD.
"It kind of takes my mind off of other things," Emerson said.
Emerson started writing letters to her friends and pen pals a couple of years ago. In them, she talks about her day, her family, her favorite singer, Taylor Swift, and usually includes a joke at the end.
One recent letter from Emerson got a lot of attention: the one she wrote her mail carrier Doug Scott.
"I really wanted him to know that he’s appreciated for doing the work he does," Emerson said.
Prior to writing the letter, Emerson didn't know the name of the man who'd been delivering the family's mail for three years but she knew how important he was in her life.
"I make people happy with my letters and you do too," Emerson wrote to Doug.
Doug was so struck by Emerson's letter, he shared it with his supervisor, who then shared it in a nationwide USPS newsletter.
"You know that days we’re going through right now, everyone’s kind of stressed and it really made my day to get a nice long letter," Doug said.
The letter struck a chord with other mail carriers across the country. Many of them wrote to Emerson to commend her on her thoughtfulness. So far, the family has received hundreds of letters back. Some include gifts, like stamps and stickers, and some include personal, heartfelt stories from these essential workers.
"We heard lots of stories of loneliness, that they work alone or that their kids are far away. We heard a lot of stories of isolation," said Hugh Weber, Emerson's father. "It is so human to need to be seen and known and loved that's what individuals felt when they saw her letter."
Emerson’s parents have always encouraged their daughter to write. Her mother, Amy, is her fifth grade writing teacher and her father, Hugh, once spent a summer writing letters to every member of congress. He was only 12 at the time.
"Those who wrote me back, I actually followed up with and asked them for a necktie," Hugh laughed. "I ended up with dozens of congressional neckties from former President Gerald Ford to many senators."
Emerson now too has lifelong keepsakes, thanks to the help of her mail carrier Doug. This includes a surprise package from her favorite singer, Taylor Swift. After hearing Emerson's story, the singer sent her young fan a couple of sweatshirts and a handwritten note telling Emerson about how much she admired her sense of empathy and "the fact that she writes letters to people who don’t expect a thank-you."