Monday, March 28, 2016

The Peculiar Arts: Pen Pals




Pen pals.

They're a wonderful thing, and I highly recommend getting one...or two...or twenty. :)


I believe in the strong power of influences. And as important as influences are, you aren't always going to be surrounded by good ones.

Fortunately, I also believe we have more power in choosing our influences than we usually allow ourselves to exercise. This means that even when the influences you are naturally around aren't good for you, you have an option to give them little to no influence, instead seeking your source of influence from a good source.

What I'm getting at is this: influences are important, but good ones won't always be right across the dirt road. A good influence & friend can always be found in your mailbox, though! Want to know the secret? Two words: Pen. Pals.

Just imagine... seeing the puttering little green mail truck pull up to your mailbox, delivering a special message just for you! It's from a friend, just your age. You've never met them, but you've exchanged dozens of letters, have all of their siblings' names and birthdates memorized, and they sent a picture of their family a few letters back, so it's about just as good as knowing them in person. And one day, when you're fully grown, and have saved up that babysitting money for a couple years, you'll arrange to meet them. You'll fly to Washington state, sit around at the airport, waiting for your first in-person glimpse of their green Sprinter, since a wrong turn made them a little late to pick you up.... wait. No. This can't be your story. Because it's already mine.

You may have read articles of Mykaela's here on the blog, or on the sister blog, Modest on Purpose? That's her. That's the Pen Pal I had never met, but went to visit anyways in Washington State for 10 days, back in October/November. "Was it weird?", we were asked. No, definitely not. We knew each other SO well, that it was practically second-nature for us to be together. Not weird at all. Except for that one time she introduced me as "the other short one". That was weird. But also, a whole 'nother story. ;)

Fact is, I wouldn't trade any one of the Pen Pals I've ever had for anything. That doesn't mean I'm still besties with each of them to this day, but that's okay. Getting to know another person, especially a like-minded one, is an experience you won't regret. They'll touch your life, and you'll touch theirs, in ways you may never understand. You may be able to teach each other things- Biblical truths, tricks on getting your bread to proof, life lessons that will stick with you forever... any number of things, really! And besides, it's fun getting mail!

Are you ready, yet? Ready to make a mail-order friend? Ready to talk to a stranger? Here are some things you should know.


1. Where do I find these people?

So, as you may suspect, not just any random stranger is going to be the perfect candidate for your recently open position of Head Pen Pal.

I would recommend starting out with a pen pal that you have met before trying a stranger. Some ideas to find a like-minded Pen Pal, in person, would be:

  • Conferences, Meetings, Family Camps, or other places where there are like minded families, preferably that you don't see regularly. A church friend could exchange letters with you, but this wouldn't really classify them as a real-deal Pen Pal.
  • Missionary Kids! Lots of missionary kids make good Pen Pals, because that's basically the only way to keep up with friends back in the states while they're out of the country. (Of course I'm not excluding domestic missionaries!!) If your church or a nearby church of similar convictions as yours hosts an annual Missions Conference, go, see if you have similar interests with any of the missionary kids your age, and be on the look-out for potential Pen Pals!!
  • If you are homeschooled, you might try making a friend in your local homeschool group, at an activity or something. My family has never attended too many homeschool group events, so finding a friend there for us would be definitely classified as a Pen Pal, because of the rarity in seeing them.

If Pen Pal-ing is an old-hat hobby for you, and you consider yourself seasoned in the sport, here are some ideas on finding like-minded Pen Pals not-in-person:

  • Get a list of missionaries your church supports. Then, look at the prayer cards, research their blogs, or ask your pastor about them, and find some families with young ladies (for the ladies), or young men (for the men) around your age, get their name and address, and write to them! It doesn't have to be an auto-biography; just introduce yourself, give some things you like, and ask them if they'd like to be your Pen Pal.
  • When your friends say that you and their other friend are "so alike" or "have so much in common", take that opportunity to get their contact info, and meet this person that is supposedly so much like you!
  • If an elderly couple in your church is constantly requesting prayer for their grand-daughter who is staying in a cancer hospital for the third time in five years, write this girl! (Or boy, for the boys, of course.) She probably doesn't have all too many friends, and she might not even be strong enough to reply to you, but you could be a great encouragement, and when she gets healthy, you'll be a very special person to her, because you wrote her, even when she couldn't write back.
  • Answer an advertisement for a Pen Pal in one of the magazines listed below
  • Publish an advertisement for a Pen Pal in one of the magazines listed below

Magazines that do ads for Pen Pals (that I know of, that's is):

  • Shining Stars magazine
  • King's Blooming Rose
  • Virtuous Daughters newsletter
(I'm sure there are others! Comment them in, if you know of more!)


2. What am I supposed to say?

Nothing specific. Generally, it would be kind of weird if you start asking personal questions to a person you don't really know. A good idea is to be friendly.

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly..."
-Proverbs 18:24a

Start with your name and age and/or grade. From there, work through your family, explaining how many siblings you have, how many are girls, how many boys, and their names and ages. Talk about your pets or livestock. Tell them about your strawberry plants. Include a recipe card of your favorite chocolate cake. Write about your grandma teaching you to crochet a couple weeks ago. Tell them about what instruments or sports you play. Tell them what Bible passages you are working on memorizing. The possibilities are endless.

Ask questions.

Nobody wants a friend that is all puffed up about their own strawberry plants, or, whatever. It is natural to want a friend that is interested in you. So, be interested! When you give details about your siblings, ask them about their siblings. When you talk about your strawberry plants, ask them if they have garden, or what fruits they like best. When you mention what instruments or sports you play, ask them if they play anything. And so on and so forth.

What if...?

...they stop writing me?

Never out-rule the possibility that your last letter got lost in the mail, and they're still waiting on you. If you feel like it has taken much longer than usual for them to reply, try re-writing, explaining that it had been a while, and you wanted to make sure your last letter made it, and give a updates on what you've been doing lately.

Other possibilities include new baby, sickness, family sickness, family death, or other traumatic family circumstances. Don't be quick to judge that they must not like you anymore; there is often much more to the story than you'll know.

...their letters are very short?

I have received a handful of what I would consider to be very short letters from Pen Pals before. If you're only getting back two paragraphs or less, it can be mildly tempting to stop. It feels like they don't like you, or else aren't interested in your friendship,  so why try, right? But I'm very serious when I say you mustn't stop. If their letters are abnormally short, this might mean that they don't have many friends or Pen Pals, and legitimately don't know what to write. The only way to overcome this is to keep writing them. Keep encouraging them to write back as soon as possible. Keep telling them how special their letters are to you, and how it always makes your day to see an envelope in the mailbox from them.

...letters just don't work?

Sometimes, letters don't work.

In the case of missionaries as Pen Pals, letters can be impractical. Postage is at least double for international sending, and unless you have a fancy label maker thing to print the postage stickers at home, you're going to have to go to the Post Office to send international letters. And your Pen Pal in Mozambique, Africa might not even have a reliable mail service. And for one Pen Pal or the other, it is just a burden to have to set aside time to write a letter.

EMAIL!!!


It's probably not news to you that 35 years ago email was invented as a way to send letters way, way, way faster. That invention is mass-used to this day, and not to mention free.

So, letters always trump emails, but in the case that letters don't work, it's a fantastic alternative!



And that's it for today. Go! Write those letters! Make those friends! Being a bit Peculiar never hurt anyone, in the course of eternity! And have a great week, y'all.  





2 comments:

  1. Question.. Isn't dangerous to publish your address? It's kind of a scary thing to do I think.. Is there any way I could write someone I don't know- knowing that they intend no harm and are who they say they are??? I really like your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there!

      Publishing your address.. hmmm. Well, I would never publish my address online. That would really be dangerous. Those magazines I listed are geared very much for conservative Christian young ladies, so I would feel no danger in publishing my address in any of those. It would ultimately be up to you and/or your parents, though. Just think that before you buy a new home and move in, you're trusting your new neighbors with your address. Like a bunch of new strangers you can't really trust know where you live. So you lock your doors. I feel like the magazine option is less dangerous than that normal situation.

      Missionary kids might be a less-risky route, though... Do you have any missionary families you pray for that might have a family member around your age? I found a great pen pal friend when I asked an older lady in our church for her granddaughter's address. Just some thoughts! Thanks for commenting; I hope I was a tiny bit of help! :)

      Delete

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