Seeing the mail carrier walk up to your stoop makes an ordinary Monday feel like Christmas morning. Through the pandemic, mail carriers have been many people’s saving grace. Some days they might be the only person, the only human contact, we have while quarantining. They are the people that bring us our beloved Amazon Prime packages, surprise Edible Arrangements bundles and the “Thinking of You,” cards from our dearest friends. When we could not see our families for the holidays, we received gifts on our doorsteps and Christmas cards of the familiar smiling faces we have missed underneath surgical masks.
The pandemic has not slowed down; cases of COVID-19 are still rising, and families and friends still have not been able to see each other for various events and celebrations. However, lack of in-person quality time does not have to stop us from engaging with loved ones. Since the pandemic lockdowns began, people have traveled back in time, finding letter writing more attractive than ever before in such a digital age.
An outreach librarian here at Fairfield University, Lisa Thornell, organized a letter writing campaign last semester for students to connect with a pen pal. The program, “Sent by Stags,” aimed for students to engage with their peers through physical letters that would be sent to their home address or campus mailbox.
18 students signed up for the program.
When Thornell asked why they were interested in sending letters to a pen pal, many students responded that they were looking for a way to meet new people during the pandemic, knowing that they would not be given the opportunity to engage much with others while social distancing. Students also wanted to express the struggles they face while studying remotely and dealing with the ever-changing regulations on campus regarding COVID-19 protocols.
Thornell tried to partner pen pals based on class year and major, so students got to share their differing perspectives on personal and social life here at Fairfield. If you are interested in being paired with a pen pal, you can sign up here, or email Thornell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Furthermore, if you have a hunkering urge to put pen to paper, express your emotions and experience a wave of catharsis, but are a little uncomfortable sharing these thoughts with a pen pal for right now, you can submit written reflections, photos or videos to the library’s archives. Fairfield University plans to create a collection of submissions written by current Fairfield students, faculty and alumni about their life experiences in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic for future Stags to look back on. You can find more information regarding this program here.
As Thornell says, “Letters are a time capsule.”
Looking back on your letters, whether they are from a pen pal exchange or in a collection of archives, has the potential to be the base for personal growth and emotional catharsis. We are living through history every day, and letter writing can give us a sense of comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our experiences, while also providing primary sources for future generations to use to learn about this time period.
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