Looking back, it didn't take a lot to get Kemp Luchie to bring out those letters of interest.
At the time, it didn't take a lot of effort to see just how proud and excited he was to pull them out, one by one, each with bold, easily-recognized logos plastered about the return address.
One had the big, red "W" for Wisconsin.
Another the rugged, block lettering spelling out P-I-T-T.
He had his whole life ahead of him, one that included a bright career on the football field and a seemingly ever-present smile off of it. We were all like that, I guess, in high school - especially at Forest Hills Northern, where we were lucky enough to be insulated from so many of the world's problems.
But his future seemed destined for perhaps a bigger stage than the rest of us. As our premier running back, Kemp was a mix of speed and power that you don't always see working with such synergy in such a young athlete.
We watched as he ran, cheered as one as he scored touchdown after touchdown in our black-and-blue uniforms under the lights on crisp autumn Fridays. In retrospect, it was all so simple, so pure - a slice of Americana that everyone should get to experience.
After today, we'd give anything to go back.
Kemp's hopes of playing in the top-tier of the collegiate ranks were cut short by an injury, but those who knew him saw the same smiling, upbeat Kemp through it all.
Eventually, I lost touch with him. We were friendly, but not friends. But I know I speak for so many people who are better qualified to speak when I say his story deserved a better ending.
With one senseless, violent decision, all of that potential, all of that future was erased. Out with co-workers in Mount Pleasant, Mich., Kemp was murdered Tuesday night.
Police say it may have been a case of mistaken identity. The shooter, armed with a gun and misguided rage, wordlessly took the life of that kid we all knew, all cheered.
So many questions are unanswered and, sadly, many will remain that way. At times like these, none of them make that much difference anyway.
What does matter is the impact he made, the lives he changed.
Here in Chicago, not a day goes by without news of another murder. Campaigns to stop the killing rise and fall, and yet the numbers still climb.
The feeling I can't shake is how this news becomes just background noise until it affects our immediate world. How selfish we are to turn a blind eye until it's in our own backyard.
The startling truth that we somehow forget that all the names we see in these awful stories have families, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and neighbors who are impacted in some way by those lost.
These names have people that love them, people that care.
And we do care. Deeply.
All day, I've seen stories and tributes of Kemp on social-networking sites. There's no doubt that he was a breath of fresh air, always quick with a joke and more than capable of bringing a smile to those he came in contact with.
Even those of us who've lost contact won't ever forget the moments he shared with us.
He deserved so much better.