catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 22 :: 2005.12.02 — 2005.12.15


The price of postage

During my sophomore year of high school, my family went to Florida over Christmas vacation. Upon returning, my mom sorted through a week?s worth of mail and handed me three or four neatly folded envelopes made out of the Sunday comics, each containing a letter. A similar piece of mail arrived each day, one for each 24 hours we had been away. I still have them tucked away with other letters and cards of great meaning.

Did I blush when Mom handed the first installment over? I recognized the writing immediately. Though we hadn?t kissed or said?maybe even thought?the words ?I love you? yet, Rob and I were quickly cultivating the intense friendship that would lead to a life partnership six years later on New Year?s Eve.

I remember the handmade envelopes fondly, not just as a symbol of the beginning of one of the most important relationships in my life, but also as a symbol of our converging journey of faithfulness?a journey in which creativity, resourcefulness and stewardship are important values.

My mom is proud, and rightly so, of raising children who know how to spot a bargain and spend wisely. While I embody this trait, I also learned early that ?throwaway? things have value. Though I wouldn?t consider my parents stereotypical environmentalists, when our town started a recycling program, they began participating immediately. Then, when the parks department offered a free composting workshop, my dad signed up and proudly toted home his complimentary starter bin. I began to realize that scraps of paper and out-dated jewelry and old clothing had value not for what they were, but for what they could become and how they could be agents of relationship with creation and with others. Cleaning and organizing aren?t trash extravaganzas, but opportunities to re-discover forgotten things that can be turned into a gift or crafted into an artifact of folk art beauty or designated as a donation to the local thrift center.

While the ingrained trait of ?reduce-reuse-recycle? is one that many people display as individuals who believe every bit helps, I?m glad to see this sensibility informing the practices of more and more municipalities and businesses. I heard a story on the radio just the other day about a company that has been making fleece from recycled plastic soda containers for over a decade and now is collecting people?s old (clean!) polyester underwear to use in the manufacturing of its high-end outdoor wear.

Some analysts predict that we will hit a peak oil crisis within the next thirty years in which the discovery and production of oil can?t match consumption?will we hit a peak trash crisis? Perhaps, but fear of crisis is not the key reason to live out stewardly principles. The urge to minimize consumption and trash output can easily be reduced to a hyper-environmental legalism, but practiced in a holistic way, it can represent a desire to be in right relationship with present and future generations of land and people. Our faithful actions can take on many levels of meaning.

Since ?tis the season, take greeting cards as an example. During the holidays, many people send Christmas cards or letters as a way of reconnecting with those whom they love, but may not have face-to-face contact with regularly. This instinct can be very good in that it?s ultimately a desire to be in relationship with others. I know I look forward to the communications I receive this time of year because it means someone actively cares for me in the purchasing of cards or paper, in the signing of a note, in the stamping of an envelope.

However, I feel a special sense of community when the mailing reflects a broader intentionality?when the image and poetry of a card has artistic integrity, when the stationery was purchased from a source that has meaning, when the paper is recycled or tree-free. Then, instead of the transaction being a one-to-one equation, suddenly the whole of creation is honored as an important part of that relationship and invited into the unity of God?s love?and all on account of a Christmas greeting!

I confess that sometimes the time and the expense and knowledge can be too much of a burden to pursue such acts fully and God is faithful to meet us with grace where our sincere efforts end. But I hope that as the community of believers continues to realize the Kingdom on earth, we will be gifted with the wisdom to see through the lenses of eternity, offering up a daily life that is bursting with an awareness of all-encompassing love.

Sources for principled cards & stationery:

Acorn Designs, a company that uses lovely nature images on environmentally-friendly papers

Coalition for Christian Outreach, a campus ministry organization in several east-central states

Treecycle, a company offering a large selection of recycled paper and stationery for those who like to do their own designing and printing

Unicef, an organization supporting child survival, education and development around the world

Village Handcrafters, an organization supporting church planting in the Philippines

Additional Hints:

  • Cut the fronts off of the Christmas cards you receive this year to create handmade recycled cards next year using plain, recycled cardstock and other salvaged items.
  • You can also cut up old cards to create Christmas ornaments, bookmarks, and gift tags; accent gift wrap; or use for a decoupage project.
  • Consider a ?paperless? greeting like an e-newsletter, e-card, visit or phone call to save on resources and postage.
  • When the season is over, recycle cards at the local recycling center or shred them for the compost pile.

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