A Pen Pal Project

My 6th-grade class was assigned a project combining current events, penmanship, and an introduction to service. We read and discussed an article from My Weekly Reader about the Viet Nam war and those serving in it. Between our age and the serious nature of the topic, the discussion was not as rich as it might have been. However, I remember having a vague understanding of how scary it must have been to fight in a war on the other side of the planet.

After the discussion, we each wrote a letter to a soldier serving in the military. This new pen pal was to receive a letter wishing them well and a safe return. I struggled with what to say, and my penmanship got in the way when I tried to write.

With the teacher’s encouragement, I finished my letter, which was promptly mailed. It seemed like weeks passed, but the class finally received the service members’ replies. Those letters thanked us for our efforts and for taking the time to write to them. The project ended with our teacher reminding us of how we had been of service. She emphasized that taking the 10 minutes to send a kind note provided someone far away with a little bit of home and maybe even some comfort.

A way of giving back

While searching for quirky and interesting events to add to the Amelia Indie Authors’ newsletter, I discovered that June 1st is National Pen Pal Day. That simple fact got me thinking about that long-ago class project and how it impacted my life. In addition to the concept of pen pals, it taught me a lesson about current events and how little effort it can take to be of service to others. Originally pen pals were people who regularly wrote to each other by mail. And, in case you were wondering, pen pals are not just a memory from the past  — they are alive and well and sometimes stepping into the internet age.  

Multiple sites are dedicated to pairing people worldwide, while others focus on someone closer to home. If you want to use your skill as a writer to be of service, there are ways to get involved. There are sites where you can provide companionship to an older adult by writing a letter. The organization will screen the letter for appropriateness, security, and safety and then pass it on to the older adult. 

And Passion

Pen pals are also not a modern invention. We have access to penpals throughout history, including letters from Catherine the Great and Voltaire to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. These works combine the eloquence of the prose with the very intimate thoughts shared by two human beings. One of my favorites was the intelligent, erotic correspondence between Anais Nin and Henry Miller, A Literate Passion.

Whose mail do YOU like to read?

Rosina Eller