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Apr-25-2019 14:20printcomments

Oregon Navy Apprentice Highlights the Power of Penpalling

Penpal writing boomed in the 1970s, in a world that was disconnected by vast distances.

pen pals
Penpal image: pexels

(SALEM, Ore.) - ‘Nobody writes anymore these days’ is a saying you may hear often, but it seems like the days of pen pal letters are far from over. St. Helens navy apprentice, Elsen White, recently visited his old school to meet students who had been his pen pals during his deployment in Japan.

The magic began when St. Helen’s teacher Jennifer Ranger had a brilliant idea to encourage her sixth grade class, who were learning about Japan, to take pen to paper.

She would ask them to write White and ask him questions about what it was like to live and work in this far-off country. Little did the teacher know that White was very much in need of a morale boost - as many soldiers serving their country abroad are.

Healing Loneliness

White notes that the first pack of handwritten cards arrived during the holiday season - a time when he and other apprentices were beginning to miss home and when morale was particularly low. The cards, he said, gave him a much needed lift and reminded him of exactly why he was in Japan and whom he was fighting for.

The school was able to contact with White thanks to his mother, who contact staff and arranged for letters to arrive to her son. White was in Japan for a total of seven months, working in aviation mechanics. Upon his return, he visited the school to thank the children in person.

His is just one of many beautiful stories that have arisen from one simple act: writing a letter to a stranger and sending it, opening a door to someone who is a vast and distant mystery.

Penpals Open Cultural Doors

Penpal writing boomed in the 1970s, in a world that was disconnected by vast distances. It was seen as a way to connect with people in other continents or countries, to exchange information about daily life and culture, and sometimes, even to practice a language.

Of course, many pen pals turned into just that - friends - keeping in contact beyond their teen years and coming to play a similar role to family members who just happened to live in another country.

Take the story of the 60-year penpal friendship between two 10-year-olds - one in Canada, one in Australia. Dolores and Lyn began writing each other in 1960 because both were Beatles fans.

They met in person when Dolores hopped on a plane to Sydney and the first thing both of them said was that it felt that meeting each other in person was just a formality. The letters had allowed them to express and share everything - their hopes and fears, major life events, and the arrival of children and grandchildren.

The Sense of Touch

For those who love pen pal writing, old style, the feel and smell of stationery in their hands is magical. The Oregon students, mentioned above, took great care to create beautiful cards which, when opened, produced a type of emotion that emails alone could never match. Of course, pen pals don’t have to go ‘old school’ in every sense.

As noted by OnlineStamp.net, it is easy to simply print your stamps out, thus making it easy to pop your letters and cards into the nearest postbox instead of queueing up at the post office the way past generations had to.

Writing for Stress Relief

When White wrote back to the students, he undoubtedly felt an even greater sense of relief than when he received the letters themselves. A 2017 Michigan State University study shows that simply writing about how you feel can help you perform stressful tasks more successfully.

The mindful state and focus required my writing enable you to focus on the message you are relaying, thus helping you offload worries and escape from the negative thought patterns that can lead people - especially those in stressful situations such as soldiers in deployment - enter into a state of anxiety and panic.

Elsen White’s story is a beautiful reminder that pen and paper still have an important role to play in human communications. The emotion involved in writing and opening a real, physical envelope wields a certain magic and excitement that online communications cannot compete with.

White’s experience is also a wake-up call to the importance of connecting with those in need - even if they are miles and miles away.

Source: Salem-News.com Special Features Dept.

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