One of my hobbies is to penpal with various people across the world. I have penpals from the United States as well as in Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa. I cannot tell you how happy I am to receive a letter, note, gift, anything from these friends. My husband doesn't understand the appeal of "writing to total strangers." The truth is that many of these strangers end up becoming lifelong friends. Just like friends I see all the time, I look forward to hearing news about their day, their families, what is going on in life, etc. I enjoy hearing the perspectives of people who live a life that is sometimes very different from (and sometimes similar to) my own. I also enjoy taking the time to sit down and write a letter. Can't you do the same in an e-mail or on Facebook? Yes and no. Recently I ran into an old student of mine at a bookstore cafe. We chatted for a few and then he continued to work on a college entrance essay and I sat to write a letter to my penpal Marianne in The Netherlands. I could see him looking over every few minutes and finally he said "So, what are you working on?" [This is more humorous because I was using kind of odd stationary I had received from a pal in Malaysia so I think that made him more curious.] I told him I was writing a letter to a friend in The Netherlands. "Cool." Back to work. 5 minutes later: "So, do you write a lot?" "Yeah, I have many penpals all over the place. I love writing to them." "I actually remember that from when you taught me. I was thinking of you a while ago. I met this girl who wanted me to write her letters over the summer rather than e-mail. It took longer, but it was pretty cool. It was actually really different than writing an e-mail. I actually had to sit and think about what I wanted to take the time to say to her." Amen. Exactly. (Passing my mail obsession to the younger generation! Yeah!)
I do use Facebook to catch up with my penpals or to keep current with their daily life but I think I use the letters to strengthen our relationships or to get into the deeper conversations. In addition to learning about their culture (in some cases), I have also had deep discussions about faith, personal struggles, parenting, literature, and many, many other topics. In fact, I would say I have deeper relationships with some of these friends than I do with some of my friends I see in person on a regular basis. Sometimes the time it takes mail to get to certain places (Russia! India!) can take a little longer than I'd like (or not arrive at all) but overall I'm happy.
Another reason mail brings me a lot of joy is because of my involvement with Postcrossing. I'm frequently getting postcards from other Postcrossers worldwide. The amount you send is equal to the amount you receive. The 2 cards that I will show later in the post are all from Postcrossing. (The 2 I'm sending out are for a Reddit exchange). I have "traveled around the world" through all of these cards. If you look further back in my blog, I have shown tons of my cards. In addition to the general postcrossing site, I'm on the forum there too. So, I just did an exchange for a "mystery envelope." Another site I've gotten involved with lately is a mail art blog called Mail Me Some Art. I have connected with a myriad of creative people there and sometimes I even follow the swaps I'm not even involved in. (I wish I had done the black and metallics swap!)
It's not always just about what I can get from my mailbox either. I love to spread an encouraging word through the mail. Some of my favorite ways to do that is Chemo Angels (while I'm mentioning cancer- the USPS is selling a stamp to raise money for breast cancer research. They have raised $78 million. Go buy some!), Adopt a US Soldier and The World Needs More Love Letters. I will admit- I'm horrible with birthday cards so if you're wondering why I haven't ever sent you a card but I love to send them to everybody else, I usually fail with cards. (If you really want mail, complain here and I will be glad to send you something. If you don't know me, but would like to, feel free to reach out and I can send you mail too.) I love knowing that simple words of encouragement or friendly words can be used to brighten someone's day.
Here is some happy mail I have received in October:
A Flat Stanley project from a 14 year old girl in Turkey. She also send the UNESCO postcard and some Turkish coffee. It was my first Turkish coffee.
What is the last happy mail that you have sent or received? If you can't remember, I challenge you to sit and send someone you care about a quick note, card, package (use your imagination!) through the mail.