Do you have a pen pal?

I do.  I have three pen pals.

This is the age of email.  Far fewer people use “snail mail” to send greetings and news to friends.  However, I think we all agree that it is a pleasant surprise when we go to the mailbox and find an envelope (other than one of those window ones) bringing us news and greetings from friends.

I belong to an organization in town for senior citizens – RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program).  One of the activities of the group is to be pen pals to elementary school students in the 4th grade.  Some local schools participate, and some small towns nearby also participate.

In this program we senior volunteers are assigned one or two students in September.  The letter exchange begins with the students sending introductory letters to us.  We then respond telling the students about ourselves and asking them questions about their favorite things.

Each month the students write us and we write to them.  Rules of the program preclude our sending gifts to the students.  We do sometimes exchange photos.  It is fun to get their news about what is happening in school and what they want for Christmas.  One year I had a pen pal who would often start his letter with “I am grounded again.”

Near the end of the school year in May we have a get-together in their classroom so that we have a chance to meet and see each other in person.  We usually play games and have ice cream treats as part of our end of the year party.

This year at the end of the year party my pen pal asked if I would continue to be her pen pal this summer so we have been writing each other about our summer adventures.

Another pen pal is a kindergarten-age grandson.  The little fellow loves to get mail and postcards in the mail box.  He was talking to his daddy about the lack of mail for him as of late and decided that to get mail, you must send mail.  With the help of a parent he wrote me a letter about what a movie he had seen.  I was alerted that a letter was coming.

The afternoon it arrived I wrote a response and took it to the post office to mail.  Since that initial letter we have exchanged several letters.  My grandson is now “on his own” to compose the letters at home.  The phonetic spelling of some words brings a smile to my lips.  He always includes a joke.  It is usually a “why did the ____ cross the road” type of joke.  These are original jokes that he comes up with.

These letters are treasures that I keep and will tuck away to present to him years down the road.

Last year I saw an article in a magazine about the Senior Angel program.  It is a program that matches interested folks with elderly folks who perhaps are home bound or have limited interaction with others.  In this program participants become “angels” and write chatty letters and send occasional small gifts to their senior.  This program is a branch of the Chemo Angel program.

Angels receive information about their senior – a brief introduction to the person and information about special interests, hobbies, colors, TV programs, candy etc.  The senior does not write back; however, each month a family member of the senior sends a report to the Senior Angel program so Angels can check in on his/her senior.

When I write my senior, I might tell her about my garden, visits with grandchildren, cookies I have baked, or the latest happening of my squirrels outside.  Since we live in vastly different areas of the US, I also talk about the local weather and I check to see what it is like in her neighborhood.  I send a little box of her favorite things at holidays and on her birthday.  My goal is to add a little sparkle to her day.

Since I write to my pen pals frequently, I like to have an assortment of note cards.  I use note cards rather than sheet stationery since the small format offers me a chance to write a short bit of news.  On each trip to Michaels and Target I check out the $1.00 bins and buy new and fun cards to have on hand.

Hm, I think I just heard the mailman on the porch.  I’m going to check to see if I received a letter today from one of my pen pals.

Thank you for stopping by Grandma in the Mailbox.  It’s summer and vacation time.  I’m taking next week off for relaxation including a trip to Chicago to see my Chicago Cubs.  A visit to Wrigley Field is always special to me.  I’ll be back in two weeks with a recipe for Cuban bread.  Enjoy the good old summertime.



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