When I was teaching English, I arranged for students to have pen pals. I don’t remember the details–whether I required them to participate in the project or promised those who did extra credit. I might have simply offered to send names to an agency to be matched with potential correspondents.
I do remember why I did it. I wanted to show them that writing could be fun. I wanted them to see it as more than essays and research papers, to understand that it could build bridges and form bonds and open new worlds.
I also wanted them to write freely, without fear of judgment, so after getting them started, I withdrew from the project.
Last week I received an e-mail from K.M., one of those students. She told me she and her pen pal have been corresponding for twenty-eight years. He’s coming from Australia this month to meet her.
She said she’s thrilled and ended with, “Thank you!”
I’m thrilled, too. Consider: how many letters, how many words they’ve written; how much they’ve learned; how much they’ve shared; how much has changed since they stamped and mailed those first envelopes. They’ve gone from pen and paper to e-mail. They’ve moved from adolescence to adulthood. Twenty-eight years. My mind boggles just thinking about it.
But I don’t deserve thanks. I spent probably less than an hour on the project. I got things going.
K.M. and her pen pal did the rest. They took an exercise and made it real. The bridge, the bond, the new world–everything I wanted for them, they did.
So thank you, K.M., for writing, and for telling me the rest of the story.
That’s one of the finest gifts I’ve ever received.
One thought on “Building bridges, forming bonds”
That’s an incredible story. What a blessing for you to learn that something you initiated turned into a long-term friendship!
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