This Writer Began a Pen Pal Project in the Pandemic, Now 7,000 Are Bringing Joy to Strangers With Letters
From the greeting
My dear love
to the signature line—
Yours in breathless anticipation,
to the final postscript—
PS: You are forever in my heart …
The art of letter writing has been almost forgotten in this current age of instant communication.
Between tweets, instant messages, Instagram, Zoom, and the granddaddy of them all, email, the demands of our fast-paced world have made the quaint, old-fashioned, and frankly slow form of missives, disdainfully known as “snail mail,” is almost obsolete. .
But thanks to the concerted efforts of New York team writer Rachel Syme, the pendulum may have started to swing in the opposite direction.
With much of the world locked up thanks to COVID-19, many have been forced to change the way we conduct our daily affairs. Working from home and homeschooling can offer the freedom of a daily commute and the benefits of wearing pajamas to attend a board meeting, but the isolation can be overwhelming.
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To combat the disconnect and loneliness that many of us are now feeling, Syme came up with the idea to revive the ancient tradition of penpals.
It all started when, after purchasing an old-school electric typewriter, Syme found himself using it not to write prose, but to compose letter after letter to friends and loved ones.
His subsequent initiative PENPALOOZA, that she set up The use of Secret Santa software, courtesy of Elfster, is gaining traction. It already has more than 7,000 participants and the list continues to grow.
“At the beginning of the summer I asked if anyone would like to start writing postal mail to strangers; people seemed interested, so I set up this exchange. ” Syme tweeted last august.
“It’s done through santa’s secret software (laughs) because it’s the only / best way to do those things at scale; so the way it works when you sign up is you get a person to write to first, and someone else gets you … so two pen pals for a sign up (more for your zero money). “
How does it work?
Everyone who signs up gets a pen pal. Once you have written and published a letter, the program allows you to mark it as “sent” so the recipient knows to watch out for incoming mail.
(While Elfster is technically a gift-giving site, your letter or even a postcard is enough to give as a gift, although Syme says if you want to include a trinket or something sweet in your mail, it probably wouldn’t be wrong.)
Anna Sublet, an enthusiastic PENPALOOZA participant shared her experience with The Guardian. “When my first email came, the emotion I felt was beyond reason. The sheer emotion of a package, containing pieces of a person, a bookmark, a sticker, and words, was simply intoxicating. Over a period of two months, this connection took shape and took flight around the world, ”he wrote.
As a Sublease, Syme believe that hope is the key ingredient that has led to the success of PENPALOOZA. “Even in the best of circumstances,” he said, “there is a delay, a period in which the letter is an object of hope, in transit between the present and the future.”
According to Sublet, PENPALOOZA is just the tip of the pen for fans of letters. Since he found the program, he registered with several other postal exchange sites.
Sublet has also subscribed to The Letters Page. The brainchild of author Jon McGregor, The Letters Page is a literary magazine that only accepts handwritten submissions for publication.
“When I started The Letters Page, it was interesting to see how many people shared that nostalgia for letters and letter writing,” McGregor told the BBC. “The envelope it comes in has the traces of the trip, while the letter itself (the handwriting, the coffee stains, the scribbles, the paper choices) are part of the message.
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Although McGregor admits that giving up the convenience of emails and instant messages is counterintuitive to some aspects of today’s workplace and home life, the letters really connect us to our basic humanity.
“When you get an email, you just understand the words and that’s it … I think people are looking back at letters and letter writing as a general awakening to things that are handmade or unique to somehow and they have a personal touch. “
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Hope, humanity, personal connection – these are all things we sometimes lose sight of in the overwhelming realities of the coronavirus. But, if all it takes to remind us of those things is to sit down and write a note for someone who means something to us, whether it’s someone we’ve just met or someone we’ve known for a lifetime, sign up and put a stamp on it.
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