Reach Out to a Stranger and Connect

During times of crisis, it’s easy to feel a little disconnected. Even when we are with our own families, we can feel lonely. We don’t realize how many relative strangers we talk to in an average week until we don’t talk to anyone outside of our immediate circle for months!

We’re not seeing our neighbors more than to just wave from a distance. We’re not seeing friends from community clubs, gatherings or religious meetings. It can be so demoralizing. We started new hobbies, we cleaned out the closets, we learned new skills. We found ways to fill up our time in the early days of staying inside. But as time has worn on, we have run out of ways to occupy ourselves.

More businesses have reopened, but life hasn’t gone back to normal. We haven’t gotten back to coffee mornings and casual meetups for friendly chats. It’s been especially hard for people with medical conditions that put them at high risk for COVID-19 as well as older people and people who live in nursing homes who have been isolated.    

Many people have turned to programs that have cropped up for pen pals. Joining a pen pal program can give you a great way to make a new friend! A lot of pen pal programs have been cropping up since the beginning of the pandemic.

No one really expects to form long-term friendships (although some may develop!) it’s more that it’s something to fill the time. Courtney Cochran founded the Shut-In Social Club wanted to “just send joy out into the world and perpetuate these positive feelings, because that’s good for us right now.” Ms. Cochran used to be the creative director of a stationery company, and letter writing is a passion for her.

Physical letter writing has measurable positive impacts on the brain, according to research published by the Northern Illinois Univ.’s Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy. In their studies writing “improve[d] memory function, decreased symptomatology, and greater feelings of happiness.”

Writing a letter is a fun activity. And, you can look forward to receiving one back in the mail. It’s an exciting activity coupled with the excitement of getting something in the mail that isn’t a bill!

When you go through a pen pal program, you can be safer. They match you with a vetted pen pal. Of course, you should never share personal information, like your banking information, nor should you send your pen pal money.

If you would like to join Ms. Cochran’s pen pal club, you can visit her site here.

Another great option is to send a letter to the O’Neill Center Pandemic Pen Pal Program. They will happily connect you to a pen pal.

O’Neill Center
Attn: Pandemic Pen Pal
333 Fourth St.
Marietta, OH 45750

You can learn more about both programs and other safe options through AARP. Always be sure that a program is reputable before sharing any personal details about yourself!
August 10, 2020
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