How much time do you spend texting? Emailing? Calling people? What about writing letters?
Sometimes it feels like our generation is out of touch. We have social media at our fingertips, we text our friends for hours, yet do we actually feel connected? Maybe some of you do, but perhaps some of you are longing for more. Longing for something much deeper than the surface-level relationships we seem to cling to.
This was me. I wanted to know people better, help them through their struggles, and bring a little bit more joy into their lives. So I took up pen paling, and let me tell you, it has forever changed how I communicate.
There’s something so beautiful about crafting a letter, whether simple or complex. Something so rewarding about sending it off in the mail, even if you never receive one back.
If you’ve ever received a letter in the mail, you already know the smile it brings to your face and the joy it brings to your heart. A letter can brighten someone’s entire day, week, or even month. You never know how someone could be impacted by such a simple gift.
The distance doesn’t matter, so whether you have a friend across the street or thousands of miles away, I encourage you to put down your phone, pick up a pen, and start writing!
Finding A Pen Pal
First things first, you have to decide who to write to!
I’ve never used the Internet to find a pen pal, and I honestly don’t recommend it. You’re FAR better off writing to the kid across the street than giving your address and personal information to a stranger online. While it can be disappointing not to have a pen pal miles and miles away, letter-writing can be an amazing way to get to know someone in your own town.
Here are a few places you can find pen pals:
Church and youth group
School and extracurricular activities
Homeschool co-ops and conferences
Some people who might want to be your pen pal:
Your cousins and extended family
Your grandparents (seriously consider it as it could bring them a lot of joy!)
Your summer camp friends
Kids in your neighborhood
Youth group and church friends
Friends from a place you used to live
Friends who have moved away
Old family friends
There are many ways to find a pen pal without getting on the internet! I met my best friend and pen pal of four years at a homeschool conference! Never stop looking around. You’ll be sure to find someone. :)
What do you need to start pen paling? Not that much! Basically all you need is paper, a pen, and envelopes, but here is a list of what I like to have on hand!
Plain or lined paper
My favorite pen
Markers or colored pencils
Tape or glue
Writing the First Letter
Writing the first letter can be a little intimidating, especially if you don’t know the person, but it’s also really fun! Below is a little guide that hopefully will help you easily craft the opening letter.
1. Dear Libby,
You may feel like addressing someone as “dear” is a bit too formal for someone you don’t know very well. Sometimes I’ll start my letters with “Hi” or “Hello” if it feels a bit too odd to write “Dear.” But usually I keep to the old-fashioned way of starting a letter. :)
2. I’m so glad that we were able to connect at camp this summer! I’ve never had a pen pal before, so I’m super excited!
Those first few sentences can sometimes be the hardest to write! A few ideas are to start with how you met, who gave you their address, or how excited you are to be writing to them.
3. For some reason I don’t think I caught how old you are! I turned sixteen in late March and it was literally snowing on my birthday! I was bummed at first, but it turned out amazing since we got a day off of school!
It’s nice to give your new pen pal basic information about yourself if they don’t already know it. That could include your age, interesting info about where you live, your hobbies, your favorite and least favorite subject, etc. I like to intersperse these facts with stories. It helps people remember and makes your letter unique and interesting!
4. Does it snow a lot where you live? We have a pretty temperate climate, so snow is fairly rare. I love snow, so sometimes I wish we lived in a place that had just a bit more!
Ask questions! Questions give your pen pal something to respond to, which makes it easier for them to write back. A letter should be a balance of questions, stories, and facts. Essentially you’re having a conversation on paper. It’s just one side at a time. :)
5. I’m so happy that we met, and I can’t wait to get to know you better!
A good way to end your first letter is to tell them how excited you are to get to know them or even how much their friendship means to you.
6. Your Friend, Peyton
There are many ways to sign off a letter. You just have to find which way fits you best! I’ll often go for “Your Friend” or “Much Love” depending on who I’m writing to, but here are a few more ideas:
Questions To Ask
Our hope as pen pals is to have a running correspondence through the mail, which means many more letters to come! That also means many more questions and stories! Here is a list of 30 questions to get you started:
How old are you?
When is your birthday?
What’s your middle name?
Do you have a nickname? If so, who gave it to you?
Do you have any siblings?
Do you have any pets?
What’s your favorite color?
What’s your favorite animal?
What’s your favorite movie?
What's your favorite book?
What's your favorite song?
What's your favorite book genre?
What's your favorite music genre?
What's your favorite place?
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
What are your hobbies?
What's your biggest dream?
What's your favorite season?
What's your favorite holiday?
What's your favorite food?
What's your favorite subject?
What's your least favorite subject?
How many countries have you been to?
How many states have you been to?
Do you have a favorite vacation spot? If so, where is it?
What's your biggest fear?
Have you ever conquered a fear? What was that like?
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Are you extroverted or introverted?
Another thing you can do is ask your pen pal to describe things! Below are some of my favorite questions that allow for descriptive answers!
What does your room look like?
What's it like living in your city/town/the country?
What does a day in your life look like?
Describe the view out your window!
Describe your favorite outfit!
Picking a Theme
You don't always need a theme for your letters, but it's a fun way to change things up each time! I've compiled a list of some of my favorite themes that you can try!
I LOVE putting extras in my letters! They add a touch of surprise that can make opening the seal even more exciting! The only rule is that they have to be flat enough to fit in an envelope!
Hot cocoa packets
Favorites lists (books, movies, etc.)
Current reading lists
Hand-written quotes and Bible verses
This or that pages
Sticks of gum
Pressed leaves or flowers
Magazine or newspaper clippings
Your favorite recipes
Drawings you’ve done
A map of your city or state
Envelope art is one of my favorite parts of pen paling. I like thinking not only about my friend receiving the letter but also about everyone who will see it on the way there! I’ve done everything from complex drawings to just simple hearts on my envelopes! I usually like simple designs best, so don’t worry about creating something over-the-top!
My final note is just have fun! There is no need to stress over letter-writing! It’s just a fantastic, creative way to get to know a friend! I’ve had seven pen pals and have written hundreds of letters, but I still adore the process of sending mail! :)