February 7, 2023

That junkmail I just got. Oh boy oh boy!

By John Guy LaPlante

Incredible all the stuff Father Boes sent me. Right away I saw what he was up to.

I’ve received tons of junk mail over the years. Haven’t we all? But nothing like this, ever.

I get my mail in a shoebox-size mailbox in a bank of 50 of them.

With its locked door open, it’s 7 high and 5 inches wide. Totally adequate even for magazines.

This time I was startled to see a huge white envelope wedged in there kitty-corner. Humongous.

Charlie, my mail carrier (not his true name), must have had a devil of a time stuffing it in there. Charlie is a gentle guy but I’ll bet that knowing he was alone, he did some real cussing.

What’s that, I wondered when I saw it. Who can that be from?

I had to tug and tug to pry it out. In fact, I’m a gentle guy, too, and I cussed, too, a rare thing.  And know what, I badly ripped one side of the darn thing in wrenching it out.

Big surprise! It came from Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Boys Town in Omaha, Nevada. Boys Town is famous. Goes way back a hundred years. But why are they sending this to me?!

A strong suspicion popped up in my mind. I’ll wager you have the same suspicion. They want money!

I opened the envelope the minute I got home. It was jammed full with an astonishing variety of stuff. Eighteen different items! No room for a 19th!

All beautiful. All top quality. All themed to Christmas! You’d be amazed to see it all.

–       Two 2019 calendars. But why two?

–       A 2019 daily planner. Nicest I’ve ever seen.

–       Six gorgeous Christmas cards, all different. One with a big, beautiful LaPlante printed on it. Wow!  All with stunning matching envelopes, of course.

–       A large sheet of To / From labels, some bigger, some smaller. Which is nice to have.

–       Then a sheet of 24 beautiful decorative greeting labels.

–       Next two sheets of “FROM” labels, 24 to a sheet. My name and address printed on each one! Too nice to toss out.

–       And most impressive, well, to me, was “A Certification of Appreciation to John LaPlante for his support in helping the boys and girls of Boys Town.” With my name in big, distinguished lettering. Like what you find on a diploma.

Signed by Father Steven E. Boes himself, the national executive director of Boys Town. Notice, “national” executive director. That’s because now there are 12 Boys Towns, all over the country, and all doing the same fine work.  Father Flanagan would be so pleased to hear this.

At a quick glance, the certificate did pass as a diploma. So impressive. It deserved to be framed. You know, for everybody to admire. Who doesn’t want to be admired?

Mind you, I haven’t done anything to deserve this huge envelope with all these goodies. Quite optimistic, that Father Boes.

Then a letter for me to read. Entitled “My Story.”  Nearly a thousand words, rich in details. Told by a boy named Robert. Nice picture of him up at the top. Clean-cut white boy. About 14 or 15. A good-looking kid.

Robert – not Bob, I noticed — tells his story in plain English, which you’d expect of a teen-ager.  I read every word. A talented writer, this young Robert.

A very, very sad story. And in many ways. Robert was in a bad fix. Nobody to turn to.

But Boys Town took him in, lucky kid. They straightened him out. Put him on the right and sure road to success. And graduating, he went out and proved himself as  a good and promising young citizen.

He didn’t believe in miracles, Robert writes. But now sees miracles are possible.

Which is exactly what Father Flanagan sought to do. Transform boys from bad to good. He looked at boys differently. He  once said, “There’s no such thing as a bad boy.”

Father Boes, I can see, was inspired by him and carries on in the same spirit.

Yes, Boys Town does great work,  he says. Yet Boys Town never, never would be able to continue that same great job without the financial support of concerned and caring people. Like me.

We kind folks make a powerful and essential difference, he says. Unfortunately, I haven’t given Boys Town a dime so far.

But it’s obvious Father Boes knows I’m a good guy. That I realize I might have grown up in a bad way like Robert. Sad to say, there are a lot of boys out there, and girls now, too, just like Robert. They desperately need and deserve help but have no idea where to get it.

This is  his Christmas Appeal, and Father Boes appeals directly to me. He starts, “Dear John….” Which is nice.   Tells how Boys Town continues Father Flanagan’s vital work. Which was to rescue children who’ve been abused, abandoned or neglected.  Which was wonderful.

Says Boys Town now has been carrying on in that same noble spirit for more than 100 years.  And last year provided direct care to 79,209 children!

“This Christmas,” he writes, “I hope you are able to help us with the children who God has entrusted into our care. May God bless you and your loved ones.” And signs off by invoking God’s blessings upon me.

Father Boes says all this much more nicely than I ever could.

For my convenience he has supplied a form. And I can make a gift of any size I want. A one-time gift. Or a monthly gift. Or a quarterly. I can send a check. Or I have a choice of four national credit cards.

And again to save me time and inconvenience, he has included two fine ballpoint pens. Beauties, with no advertising message printed on them, which surprised me. But why two?  In case I lose one, I suppose.  Well, very thoughtful.

As I looked at all Father Boes’ goodies, I marveled at how much I’d have to dish out if I went out and bought them all on my own.. And think of all the time I’d have to spend. And doubtful I would find as nice.

Of course, I’m confident thousands of good people like me are receiving this huge envelope right now. Maybe you have, too, or will.

Yet, I’m still puzzled. Why does Father Boes send me this delightful gift of two of this and three of that? Not just one. Could be he doesn’t want me to run short.

Sure, I could use some but maybe not all. I wouldn’t toss it out. That would be wasteful.  So I’d gift it.  I’d feel good doing that. And I’d also feel good spreading the word about Boys Town.

And the more that friends heard of its fine work, the more boys and girls like Robert would get transforming help.

Isn’t that so?

Yes, I’ve known about Boys Town for years.  I remember it from the wonderful movie, “Boys Town” in 1938. Starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney.  Which I got to enjoy much later.

If you haven’t heard of Boys Town’s noble work, let me give you key details.

It was founded in 1917 by Father Flanagan there in Omaha. Born in Ireland, by the way. A man of great charm and-enormous talents.

One day he ran into a boy who was carrying a smaller boy on his shoulders. Quite a burden. But the boy doing the carrying said, “Oh, he isn’t heavy, Father. He’s my little brother.”

Father Flanagan was touched. He glowed. Re-told the story often and it has been passed along and passed along. And made lots of people glow.  It made me glow. Now there’s a little drawing of that boy carrying his little brother in everything Boys Town publishes, it seems.

A few years back Boys Town got another great idea. Like Robert, a lot of girls need help, And Boys Town accepted that challenge enthusiastically. So donations help boys and girls now.

I suppose it would have been awkward to start calling the school Boys and Girls Town. And Kids Town never would have worked. So it’s still Boys Town.

But the way so  many women are now demanding full equality, it seems inevitable some will protest that that name is unfair. Might sue. Wonder if Father Boes loses sleep over that?

Oh, its work has been greatly expanded. It used to serve only kids of middle school and high school age. Now it takes them in much younger as well.

Now it serves all kinds of “at risk” children. The risks can be of many kinds. It provides much more than just schooling now. It also tackles social and psychological problems. Has a much enlarged mission. Now it proudly states, “Serving Children … Healing Families.”

Father Flanagan was marvelously innovative.  He made Boys Town a true town, even with a boy mayor and councilors.

A town with a police department, post office, public services. With its own schools, athletic facilities, library, gym. All the usual sports and clubs. A total package of academic and athletic and social programs.

He didn’t house the boys in dormitories. No, no. He put them up in nice houses, real homes, eight or ten in each. And each has man and wife “parents” who have a full parental role in every way.

They oversee the kids in all their activities. Praise them when they do well and coach them when they need support. This also give the kids an important sense of “family.”

He developed and implemented novel ideas. He spoke in many cities and states and numerous countries, including his native Ireland. Where he found its ideas about educating children deplorable, by the way. He  changed people’s thinking.

He is buried on the grounds of Boys Town. Was so highly regarded as a hard-working and highly motivated priest that the Vatican is moving him along on the long path to sainthood. Truly, Boys Town has become widely recognized for doing a classy job.

I’ve spent a lot of time boning up on all this. The one scandal I’m aware of over its many years is of a former supervisor a few years ago getting convicted of molesting a Boys Town child.

Now back to Father Boes’ Christmas Appeal. The sum of the charitable gifts it takes in every year is enormous. For instance, its 2016 annual report said that Father Flanagan’s Fund for Needy Children provided $44,782,000 of  support. !!! And 86.36 percent of every dollar received was spent on the care of children.

A key tool (there are others) in achieving that is the huge envelope I just received. Every item top quality. Every item useful. All of it personalized. My name on it time and again. Very expensive to produce. Just the Post Office’s bill must be staggering.

Well, I had no intention of making a contribution. It’s a good cause. I’ll make one, and I’m sure Father Boes will be disappointed. But it’s better than zilch.

Thousands of others will also, and I’ll bet Father Boes will be tickled by the final tally.

And know what? All of us will get a personal thank you from Father Boes, even the smallfries like me. And he’ll be so pleased that he’ll send me—and the thousands of other donors–another big envelope next year and the next year. Until he finds out that mine has become undeliverable, if you know what I mean.

Obviously Father Boes and his team are masterful fund-raisers. Everything is carefully calculated.  For one thing, notice his timing.  It’s the first Christmas solicitation I receive this year. Guaranteed I will receive others. Father Boes made sure to get a jump on the competition.

Gosh, how did I make Father Boes’ list? That occurred to me, of course. As I said, I have no connection to Boys Town. So how come?

Well, I know. Father Boes’  knows all about buying lists of names from name-listing services. Such as MailChimp. There are a number of them.

You just tell them what kinds of people you want to mail to. Give them basic criteria of the people  you’re looking for: occupation, education, age, key interests. For example, important data may be their religion, what publications they subscribe to, what stores and companies they deal with, their credit rating, what other charities they may support, maybe even their political leanings.

These list services have an amazing range of customers. Amazing the different outfits that mail to me.

And these list sellers will sell you all the names you want, at so many dollars per thousand. I’m confident Father Boes buys names this way. I made the list he wanted.

Yes, I’ve been calling it junk mail. We all call it junk mail, don’t we? But what is junk mail? It’s mail that we’ve not requested.  Unsolicited mail that wants to sell us something. Or do something, such as vote for so and so.

Some of it indeed is junk. Often I toss it before even opening it. I recognize the sender and have zero interest.But often I do open a new offering just out of curiosity. And know what? I’ve gotten junk mail I’ve found interesting and useful and have signed up for what they’re peddling. As I have for Father Boes’ and Boys Town..

Sometimes I open something from a known vender just because I’ll enjoy reading it and believe I’ll buy nothing.

In my case examples are mailings from Harbor Freight and Haband Clothes and AARP and sundry travel companies.  I enjoy looking them over. And sometimes I say yes. As I will to Father Boes now.

How about you? How do you feel about junk mail?

Unfortunately, I’ll keep little of Father Boes’ goodies in that envelope. Certainly his gold Thank You Certificate to me. The one that looks like a diploma.

But just as a souvenir of this blog post I’ve had fun writing. And I’ll pass along the other stuff. Too nice to just trash.

An interesting thing. At our Senior Center I had quite an experience. There’s a box of freebies there. People put in stuff they don’t need. Others look in for nice freebies.

I looked. And found Boys Town stuff in there from others like me who got Father Boes’ envelope. And  I decided that’s where I’m going to leave my Boys Town stuff.

But that made me think of Charlie, my mail carrier. He must have cussed more than once delivering those envelopes to others on his route. Poor guy!

Anyway, I hope you have a bigger mailbox than I do. Just in case.

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