Writer Starts a Pandemic Pen Pal Project – Now 7,000 People Are Mailing Joy to Strangers With Letters

The art of letter writing has been all but forgotten in this age of instant communication. Between tweets, IMs, Instagram, and the granddaddy of them all — email — the demands of our fast-paced world have rendered the antiquated form of communication known as “snail mail” all but obsolete. Now, thanks to the concerted efforts of New Yorker staff writer Rachel Syme, the pendulum may have begun to swing back in the opposite direction. With much of the world on lockdown thanks to COVID-19, many people have found the isolation overwhelming. To combat the disconnect and loneliness, Syme got the idea to resurrect the time-honored tradition of pen pals. She set up the project using Secret Santa software and already has more than 7,000 participants. How does it work? Everyone who signs up gets a pen pal. Once you’ve written and posted a letter, the program allows you to check it off as “sent” so the recipient knows to be on the lookout for incoming mail. Amidst the life changes caused by the pandemic, hope, humanity, and personal connection are things we have lost sight of. So, if all it takes to remind us of those things is sitting down and writing a note to someone else — whether it’s someone we’ve only just met or someone we’ve known all our lives — signing up is the best thing we can do for us and for others.