“Letter writing is the only device
for combining solitude with good company.” – Lord Byron
Have you ever enjoyed exchanging letters with a pen pal? After learning how to write a letter as a 3rd grader at St. Francis de Sales School, it was off to the Hallmark store and post office for me. It seemed magical that if I wrote following the format of a letter's five parts, put a stamp on the envelope, and waited, that something magical would appear in the mailbox...a return letter!
Like today, Saturday's became my time to write whatever and to whomever. It became a sacred envelope of space, uninterrupted before the household woke and Saturday chores started. You'd think after a week of rigorous homework that I would want to write. But I did. My pen pal writing career started slowly with letters to grandparents and two sets of great-grandparents.
With our pen pal friendship now sealed, my courage expanded to write my Great Auntie Tory, an executive secretary in Manhattan, NYC. She always replied promptly with compliments for my writing and penmanship skills. Reflecting now, I give thanks for Auntie Tory who served as my first editor and writing mentor.
After these many exchanges, I volunteered to join pen pal clubs from elementary through high school years. Some pen pal friendships also started with foreign exchange students and friends after a family military move.
At the height of my pen pal career, a dozen letters found their way to the mailbox every Saturday for their special delivery to family and friends.
Writing letters continues to delight me. Yes, the replies are fewer and far between with the digital age. So, when a "snail mail" anything arrives with a hand addressed envelope and stamp, my little girl's pen pal heart flutters! Doesn't yours, too?
Imagine. That one language arts lesson, "How to Write a Letter," taught by Sister Mary Martha, a 20-something Dominican Sister, changed my Saturday's and every day thereafter. Used over the past five decades, letter writing became a pivotal skill to create the life I now love as an author, speaker, and creative matrix.
Here are 5 ways that writing pen pal letters can teach us about being better messengers:
After a day of one-dimensional, flat screen experiences with social media, emails, and voicemails, does your spirit yearn for that one-to-one deeper connection? Beyond face-to-face encounters and perhaps Skype, Facetime, or Zoom, there's no complete description of the three-dimensional experience that comes from touching paper and ink in someone's own hand arriving at your home. It's very personal. Intimate. It becomes more sensory if the paper is scented, the ink is a color, and the stamp bears a special image.
The practice of writing pen pal letters can increase your appreciation for the connections of time, talent, and even small treasures.
At the core of any pen pal relationship is the heart contract that letters sent are then replied to until it is time for the relationship to close--temporarily or permanently. You can count on a pen pal. You can depend on a pen pal. You come to trust a pen pal.
The practice of writing pen pal letters can exercise your consistency and reliability muscles.
Practicing the almost lost art of letter writing provides opportunities to relate, invite, market, inspire, and uplift in a most unique and personal way. It returns you and your pen pal to a slower, perhaps kinder time when letters were one of the only forms of communication beyond phone calls or meetings. Even if you choose not to use snail mail for your delivery, emails in a letter format can also be very effective.
The practice of writing pen pal letters can increase your brand's uniqueness in a sea of sameness.
Did you know that 94% of Americans in a 2014 survey believe that a growing lack of civility is a problem? Turn on any nightly news station, go to a restaurant, or shop at a big box store for a slathering of rudeness, rage, and recklessness in all degrees. This is often mixed with vile words and actions defying understanding. The pen pal relationship is built on some or all of these premises: using kind and supportive language; saying please and thank you; eliminating profanity; keeping the conversation private and not airing public laundry and; focusing on the person, not everyone or everything else on the Smartphone or in the room.
The practice of writing pen pal letters can add civility back into our society in simple but profound and also inexpensive, but priceless ways.
The traditional pen pal relationship is often used to learn more about a different country by practicing reading and writing in the new language. Literacy can be the primary goal. It is also a way to connect people and foster an appreciative awareness of differences and common grounds. Friendships grow and even marriages might follow. The letter exchanges can last for short times and lifetimes. At a time when the world seems fractured by incivility, wars, and more, a return to this lost art form might be one more tool to affirm, WE ARE ONE WORLD. TOGETHER WE SURVIVE and THRIVE.
The practice of writing pen pal letters can offer a way to add more peace to your messages and to YOU, the messenger.
As Lord Bryon suggested, why not consider "combining solitude with good company?"
Which one of the 5 ways above did you connect with?
Which one of the 5 ways above did you connect with?
P.S. Why not join me and 22 writing sisters at the St. Pete Writing Retreat: Renew Your Body & Creative Soul? You'll use the art form of pen pal letter writing to practice the Divine Dialogue Writing System along other fun activities.