It’s been years since I’ve been involved in an ongoing, consistent relationship using letters. This is too bad. It’s not as though detailed emails or longer phone calls with out-of-state friends or family have taken their place. No, simply put, overall communication has generally fallen off. Bugger. And it’s a bigger disappointment when you admit the value and purpose in sharing bits about ones’ lives through letters has almost disappeared. Thankfully not for all, such as with my friend Julie…
Julie (juliekesti.com) and Cheyenne (rudolphclaystudios.com) became instant friends 11 years ago, both spending the summer as work-study students at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (home of the worlds largest Salt and Pepper Maker Shaker). Soon after Julie’s departure, the letter writing began and it’s never stopped.
On average a letter is sent every month, running about three pages in length and often composed over a couple of weeks. They purposely email or use the phone only when needed for business or big news. Being a teacher, Cheyenne often reuses paper and Julie tries to guess its origin. And Julie uses colorful pens, stickers and drawings in her letters and envelopes, always a treat for Cheyenne. They once made a painting through the mail, mailing pieces back and forth to each other, which was eventually used in an art show.
This is their first experience with pen paling, but it easily became a natural correspondence. Cheyenne feels through writing “Julie and I have a different kind of friendship…I feel very open to her in ways I am not with other, more local friends. I think with writing, we share a part of our self that is more private or more authentic than we could get through email or phone.”
Julie says, “You get to be a part of moments in a faraway friend’s life that you probably wouldn’t otherwise. This happens a bit with Facebook but a letter is much more direct and personal, more like you are really present with the person – it’s magical.” Cheyenne agrees, “A real letter is substantial and important, because it’s tangible and some other person took real time and real physical effort to make the letter.” These women are committed and consistent pen pals. I give them praise!! It might take more time, but the reward is priceless.
The people at The Little Folk also believe in the power of a Pen Pal but for young kids. They recently launched Pen Pal Collective, a traditional letter writing program for children 4-13. Once signed up, Little Folk will match your child with two writing pals as well as with a writing kit that includes paper, pencil, stamps, and more. The Brown boys will be sure to share their correspondences this spring.
In addition to these existing relations which fuel the fire, news just in from the USPS. The Postal Service plans to delay its plan to end Saturday delivery mainly because they do not have the authority to make such a decision. The question still remains where the postal service can save money. So for the time being, see if you can’t ignite a pen pal with a letter to a college buddy or sign your child up for the next round of pen pal from Little Folk.