It is said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. However, I receive free return address stickers without asking.

I just got back from the mailbox and brought in a large envelope with official phrases stamped thereon like “Official Documents Enclosed” and “Secret Nuclear Codes Included.” OK, I jest about the latter.

I believe the United States Postal Service is one of our nation’s treasures, right up there with the National Park Service.

Not too long ago I started receiving requests for donations for a wide variety of good causes. Missives entreated me to save the ducks, sponsor poor villages in foreign countries, and today’s communication indicated I was in sore need of additional life insurance.

The common thread in these queries is that they are accompanied by a sheet of self-sticking return address labels.

Some good thought has gone into the design of these labels. A number feature the first letter of my last name rendered in a font worthy of a French jewelry designer. Others have, albeit small, lovely photos of Labrador Retrievers bounding through marshland. Today’s sheet featured my name and address in four separate styles.

Several label rows sported a handsome gothic “M” and, as usually the case, there is the oft-used American flag.

I feel this free stickie movement is a relatively new one. I wonder what scenario birthed this phenomenon. Did the brain trust exclaim, “Let’s give ’em free address labels. They’ll HAVE to donate to our save the mollusks campaign!”

Perhaps it’s too simplistic, but are we to feel guilty accepting the free stickies and not donating money to the stated cause? It clearly must be very cheap to produce these sheets, so there is no equal value clause here to ponder.

I admit I am using the free stickies without any response on my part. The stickies arrive unbidden so I’m pretty guilt free on this. Besides, the parties I do support do not feel the need to offer these cheap, but appreciated, freebies.

Perhaps a larger issue here is that these entities are vicariously encouraging the experience of sending mail. The return address occupies its historic upper left hand corner of one’s envelope unless one decides to turn the envelope over and center it over the flap.

When the free stickies first started arriving, I would affix them to bills. I wonder how many of my readers still use the mail for their monthly bills, given that most of my bills nowadays are paid electronically. Easy peasy.

I can remember my mom and dad sitting at the dining room table with stacks of paper and envelopes navigating the sometimes tough decisions concerning family finances during the 1960’s. Upon completing their duties, there would always be a small stack of envelopes that I would run up to the mailbox, stick in, and raise the red flag.

I get letters from a small circle of correspondents. Rome musician Kenneth Moyers writes to me on what appears to be a vintage typewriter, and his notable script on the envelope announces his letter that I read immediately.

The late Dr. Ouida Dickey, Berry College legend and treasure, was always quick to respond to my letters. She addressed her letters with a flowing script and the upper left hand corner sported a classy self-stick return address label. Her letters were always filled with joy and positivism. I miss her.

Some elderly folks I write never respond. However, their children inform me that my letters are read over and over with much joy.

I salute you nonprofits and insurance companies who provide me with a palette of return address labels. Even though I type my letters on the computer and print out the text, I still hand address the envelopes. Other than my signature, I feel it is important for the recipient to know that an actual human being touched pen to paper or envelope.

The other great use for the labels is for putting one’s return address on Christmas cards. Remember those?

Thanks United States Postal Service. Thank you for the letters, the magazines, and even the free return address stickies. We appreciate you and, despite the wonders of the internet, we want you to thrive and last as long as our Republic.

Former Roman Harry Musselwhite is the author of “Martin the Guitar,” co-creator of “The Dungball Express” podcast and is an award-winning filmmaker.

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