Thursday, September 10, 2009

Form Letters

Form letters are a fact of life. I suppose some people hate them. That seems to be the opinion of some literary agents anyway. They refuse to send a response of any kind. But me, I love form letters. No one expect busy people to respond to write a personal response to every piece of correspondence they receive. For that matter, most people don’t care if the response is personal, as long as they get a response. We know that some of the mail we send never gets past the secretary and the response is either a form letter or written by someone else.So maybe there isn’t much to love about that, but what I love about form letters is that occasionally one will come that is a little different. It is a reminder that we aren’t just another face in the crowd.

The other day, I received an e-mail from a particular library saying that they would like to have copies of my books in their library and asking if I had copies I would be willing to donate. I gladly sent them a copy of each of my books. A few days later, I received a letter in the mail. It was quite obviously a form letter, worded to generically thank individuals for donations and very likely printed off in batches to be signed by the director of the library. But at the bottom of this letter was a handwritten note in his own handwriting. It wasn’t very long or very significant in what it said, but it was enough to indicate that he recognized and remembered me. You see, this particular library director is a personal friend of my father’s and a man I have seen many times over the years. I have received similar form letters from presidents of colleges and other institutions. I’ve never donated enough to warrant a handwritten letter or a phone call to thank me and a form letter is more of a response than I require, but to receive the occasional hand scribbled note is nice because it tells me that that person thought about me, not as just another donor, but as someone he remembers, for a little bit of his day, even if only a few seconds.

There is value in a response, even if it must be a form letter. And when the person sending the letter is able to add a short sentence that tells us we are important to him, a form letter can seem as personal as one drafted by hand.