As the world shrinks and communication becomes more convenient, old ways of keeping in touch are evaporating. Telephone calls are giving way to texting, face-to-face meetings are shifting to social media, and even emailing is becoming less common.
As college was wrapping up for me in 2012, I made some commitments to friends. We swore that we would stay in touch. As distance, state lines, jobs, and life separated us, we tried to maintain our friendships. While we still do Facebook, phone calls, and emails, letter writing has become a favorite method of communication. Nothing beats bringing in the mail and finding a postmarked letter from Michigan, Pennsylvania, or North Dakota. Here are some of my top reasons why people should bring back pen palling:
1. It is personal. Nothing reminds someone that they are important like receiving a hand-written (or typewriter typed) letter in the mail. A friend is not posting some status that all 564 of her friends can read or trying to get general information about sports or television shows. Opening a letter and curling up in an armchair to hear about a friend’s life from across the world reminds you that someone is thinking about you and took the time to share his or her adventures.
2. It’s thoughtful. Writing a letter takes time. It is not a bullet point outline of life events or a day-by-day snapshot of what has gone on. While a person can dash off an email about a job that needs to be done or a special event, a letter requires a person to think about life. Instead of capturing just the events, a letter allows the writer to analyze what happened, why something happened, and what the follow up is. The receiver is able to crawl inside her friends thoughts and really understand the sender for who she is.
3. It’s timeless. Having a pen pal is having a written record of a friendship. The struggles, heartaches, and successes are all captured on paper that will last for a lifetime. As one of my pen pals from school moved to Pennsylvania and then to North Dakota, I’ve kept tabs on her throughout her travels. As I moved from Michigan to Texas, she’s kept track of me. The discussions we’ve had about jobs, family struggles, dreams, and hopes are all captured in a log that we can share and remember as our friendship continues to grow as the years go by.
Being a pen pal is a big commitment. It’s choosing to dedicate time and thought to a friendship when other methods may take less time and aren’t as taxing. However, the benefits and depth of a long-distance relationship grows as friends put the time in to keeping in touch and reminding the other person about how valuable they are. Let’s bring back more pen pal partnerships!