Saturday, June 3, 2017

What Writing Pen Pal Letters Can Teach Us About Being Better Messengers


SPINNING YOUR GOLD BLOG: Words that Open Hearts & Inspire Actions


“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:


1) Connection 
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.

2) Consistency
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.

3) Communication
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.

4) Civility
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.

5) Community
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?

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.

Copyright Lore Raymond, 2017. No portion of the blog post or information on this site may be reprinted, re-used or copied to another site without prior written permission from the author.

13 comments:

  1. I always enjoy reading about childhood passions that find their way to adulthood. Fun post, thanks.

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    1. Thank you, Andrea. I was fun to rewind to these happy hours of writing pen pals.

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  2. Thank you! Wow I have not thought about pen pals in decades and what a beautiful post and tribute to this! Love it! Sending Love <3

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    1. I hadn't thought about pen pals either, Jenny, until Saturday when I was posting...and then the memories started flooding me so I wrote the blog post. Thanks for sharing it.

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  3. I love your inspiration and encouragement to write letters Lore and seeing how foundational letter writing has been in your life. Your quote about your nurturing practice of Saturday letter writing sums up its importance in your life, "It became a sacred envelope of space, uninterrupted before the household woke and Saturday chores started." Thank you for the reminder of how important the practice is to connecting with ourselves and others!

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    1. Thank you, Kelley, for your always affirming comments. Yes, this practice has served me well and I hope it might serve others as well.

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  4. I loved having pen pals as a child. Today, I keep the practice by sending my clients messages, notes and cards in the mail in addition to email communication.

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    1. No surprise that with your love of people you'd have many pen pals, Rachel. And it's inspiring to hear that your practice continues in your own way with clients. Does Gavriel have any?

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  5. I loved pen pal writing as child. Guess I was ahead of my time as my penpals reached far and wide around the globe. ❤

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  6. I never had a regular pen pal when I was growing up. Your story makes me think it's never too late!

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    1. A great reminder, Sheila. It's never too late to do something new that would bring us joy!

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  7. I used to love writing to my pen pals when I was younger. I don't think social media gives us the same benefits although email is probably the next closest thing. I still love writing short letters in the cards I send to family and friends. Perhaps we need to start a pen-pal club!

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    1. No surprise that you enjoyed pen pal letter writing, Barb! I agree, FB is ok, but not the same for many reasons which I've outlined in this blog post. And yes, perhaps a Adult Pen Pal Club might be started. Could be fun and informative!

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