I hope you are well and your family is well. I hope you have enough food and essentials stocked up and are able to weather this storm. We are in unchartered waters and I feel a bit rudderless as I try to get a handle on my schedule, my kids schedules, and the math needed to determine how much toilet paper I really need. Also how much money. I think I’m coming up short in both respects but I feel lucky that overall I have what I need and I am home with the people I need to be with. I hope the same for you and yours.
Blogging at a time like this seems pretty vacuous BUT I did have an idea – a concept I wanted to share. Remember letters? Handwritten correspondence? Pen pals? Over the course of history – archived letters, notes, and missives have added a tremendous amount of knowledge and insight into how we lived our lives at various points in time. Famous letters get a lot of love, of course, but letters from soldiers to family members, letters between lovers or best friends, break up letters, important news letters, here is what I did on this average day letters – they all matter and they all leave a record that can be saved, treasured, and even archived for future generations.
We are all living in a singular moment in history right now. You will remember these weeks and maybe months for the rest of your lives. Maybe future generations will ask you about this strange season of uneasiness and uncertainty. What will you remember? How will you remember? Letters.
Now don’t get me wrong – I have been on a steady diet of memes for days. I am in awe of the wit and insight of the people who are generating these critical laughs for us all right now. But even though digital archiving is a thing most of our online communications will be digital ephemera that becomes lost or loses its relevance over time. But a letter to your Grandparents won’t.
There are so many older people holed up and afraid right now. The news is scary, maybe memes aren’t their thing, and they (most likely) don’t use apps like Snapchat or tik tok or whatever else to connect. But they remember letters. So I’m asking you to sit down and write a letter to someone today – especially someone older. You don’t have to say anything earth-shattering. You don’t have to use perfect grammar or punctuation or even cursive. It doesn’t have to be a long letter. But I can guarantee you when they get their mail and see your handwriting they will smile. When they sit down to read your thoughts they will feel connected. Getting a letter in the mail is a simple pleasure but it is a genuine one.
I used to have pen pals. I had artist friends whose letters were covered with doodles. I had an overseas lover (who you can read about here) who sent me airmail envelopes that made my heart pound when I would see them perched in my PO box. I would walk home with the letter clutched in my hand like a promise, making sure I was in my favorite spot in my window before I let myself open the letter and see what a man across the ocean was thinking about me. I have funny postcards from my sister who died more than a decade ago. Those postcards are gold to me now.
There are so many inspiring acts of kindness and levity happening all around us right now. Write it down. Remember it. Share it with a loved one – especially someone older or a person who lives alone. Make a record of your life. Make a record of this moment. Be a Pen Pal.
If you are worried about spreading germs by mailing a letter to someone do these two things:
Wash your hands BEFORE you grab your paper and pen to write.
Seal the envelope and affix the stamp using a damp sponge – not your tongue
AND if you would like a handwritten letter I will send you one. I promise. It may be a bit nonsensical or even silly. It may or may not contain random information, meanderings, or musings but it will be for you and you alone. Send me your mailing address to email@example.com and then keep an eye on your mailbox – because a snapshot of history, a moment in a life, a spark of human connection is coming your way soon.
Stay safe out there. Stay kind. Stay gold, Pony Boy.
And since you read to the end here are penguins at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago going on a tour of the empty Aquarium.