I love letter writing. I’ve written to penpals and friends since I was about nine years old. I used to mail dozens of letters a week to people all over the world. But as I grew up, I ran out of time and slowly drifted away from the practice. This month, however, I’ve started to get back into it. And I’m really excited because I found out there is a letter writing challenge that goes on every year in Feburary called LetterMo! Since I was already writing, I’m now just joining in this challenge.
Even if you don’t want to commit to a letter every day (I write them at work when bored, or on my breaks, so it doesn’t cut into my free time), I encourage you to try to write a letter to someone this month. 🙂 It’s fun, it makes other people happy, and it’s exciting when/if they write you back!
If you don’t know where to start, there are several groups of people who could use a friendly word from you, and some organizations to do fun things with mail.
Write to the Elderly
If you have an elderly family member in a nursing home, start there. Send a happy card, draw a picture, or share a really great quote you’ve heard recently. These letters not only make them happy, but it gives them bragging rights. Every person they see, they’ll show off your card. They’ll hang them up in their room. Seriously, if you’ve ever hung out in a nursing home, everyone rubs it in each others’ faces when they’re given something special. 😉
To write to other elderly people, there is an organization called Love for the Elderly where you write anonymous letters and they distribute them to nursing homes. This can mean the world to someone who doesn’t have anyone in their life who visits or writes to them. There is also a website I found that will connect you with a more long term, regular penpal. It’s part of Reach Out America, and is a message board that is reasonably active where people post those looking for penpals.
Write to Prisoners
A coworker’s best friend’s brother recently was sent to prison. His family has basically abandoned him, and his only friendly contact is with his sister, and his sister’s best friend. I used to write to LGBT prisoners and have been helping my coworker with understanding the rules and what needs to be done to write to her friend’s brother. And in doing so… it’s inspired me to get back into the practice of writing to prisoners. Black and Pink is a good organization that connects you with LGBT prisoners who are looking for penpals. You might need to do a bit of searching through the list to find someone who is looking for friendship and not romance, but give it a go.
There is also Write a Prisoner, a searchable database of prisoners looking for penpals. I’ve had success on this website too, and made a friend who wrote back and forth with me on a weekly basis until she was released. (Please note: this site double checks your security before allowing access.)
Please make sure to read all of the information guides on these sites, as there are a lot of rules and regulations regarding what you can send to prisoners and how you need to address letters, etc.
Write to Sick Kids
Another thing I used to do through an organization that’s no longer around – write happy, cheerful cards to kids with cancer. I’ve found two websites that still do this. Cards for Hospitalized Kids asks you to send anonymous letters, and they go to hospitals and distribute them.
Send Kids the World is more of a searchable database to let you write to specific kids as yourself. (I worry about the safety on this site?? But suppose the parents are managing it, so??)
Please make sure to read the guidelines – it’s not good to write things like “get well soon!” or focus on their illness in the cards.
Other Fun Writing Projects
There’s a site I’ve followed for a while – More Love Letters. The idea is that people will nominate friends or family who are having a hard time and could use uplifting letters. If you follow their newsletter, they’ll send you a weekly update with a person to send a letter to. They also suggest other ways to spread the love, such as leaving letters in public for random strangers to find.
If you haven’t heard of Post Secret yet, you aren’t paying attention. The idea is to decorate a postcard with some art and a secret you’ve never told anyone, then mail it to the project. They post the secrets anonymously on their website and compile them into books.
Post Crossing is a ton of fun. You sign up, and they give you an address. You send a postcard to that address, and will get one in return. You can get postcards from all over the world this way. On my profile in college, I asked for people to send me a few words in their language or to draw me something cute, and I got quite the collection. In the US, it costs a dollar and change to mail a postcard overseas, and every postcard you send out, you get one in return.
If you have artistic skills and want to show them off, there is also mail art. Here is a quick little explanation/guide of various kinds of mail art, and an ongoing/updated list of projects all over the world that are accepting submissions. You can also just mail your mail art to any of the groups I mentioned above. Everyone loves getting pretty art in the mail!
Have you ever done penpalling or letter writing before? Are you going to try writing anyone I mentioned in this post? Tell me about it! I’d love to hear stories.