Finding New Connection During the Pandemic: Celebrating the UUC Pen Pals
We are passing through the seventh month of the COVD-19 pandemic and one of the unexpected blessings of this time is that we’ve been able to not only sustain our connections with one another, but also find new ones. We are finding new ways to learn and grow together. At UUC, members of a wide range of ages are forging new friendships as pen pals.
There are 25 writing pairs at UUC, across 29 families. With some exceptions, many of our younger Pen Pals are in elementary school; the youngest is six years old! Each child or teen was thoughtfully paired with an adult member of the congregation through collaboration between the Religious Education staff, the Pastoral Care Team, and Rev. Beth.
Four-ish months into writing and the Pen Pals are in a variety of stages of writing to one another. Some are just now getting started but are finding that they are just as interested in learning about one another as they were when originally paired up. Some pairs slowed down during the summer and are looking forward to getting back into the habit of writing. Some are slowing down now for the school year and are looking forward to reconnecting around the holidays. All have found that the practice of writing to one another meaningful:
- One of our younger Pen Pals writes that they have especially loved getting mail in their mailbox! They are surprised by how their friendship with their pen pal has grown, after having not known them at all before this.
- Don Morgan, a long-time RE teacher at UUC, has enjoyed getting to learn more about his pen pal’s interests, like learning Star Wars on the piano. He’s also loved receiving special origami gifts in the mail, made by his pen pal. But he’s found it has been more difficult to write letters by hand than he anticipated, after being so used to the computer keyboard!
- Valerie Kreutzer writes that “it’s always a treat when I get a personal letter in the midst of all the advertisements and organizational pleas for money. And when the letter is from Elliot, I find out about the life of a 12-year-old in the midst of a pandemic….Every once in a while there’s a friendly letter from someone who lives close by, but I have yet to meet.”
- Barb Kendziorski, who taught for 42 years, has missed being with younger children, and is enjoying getting to know her 9-year-old pen pal. Barb and her pen pal are exchanging information about their favorite things to do and are hoping to meet each other in person sometime soon!
- In addition to getting to know his pen pals, David Rush has enjoyed the feeling of community broadening and enrichment. He believes that “every time we engage with people outside our familiar and immediate sphere, we gain empathy and perspective.”
Parents of our younger Pen Pals are glad that their children are getting to know other adults in the congregation. Sarah Walker notes that her daughters have “enjoyed getting to know some of the other members of the congregation and learning about their interests and interesting lives.” This has helped their family “feel closer to the congregation, while also strengthening my girls’ letter writing skills!”
The UUC Pen Pals came out of the deep desire to retain the sense of being tied to one another and to not let one another go through the pandemic alone. They were one answer to the questions “What?” and “How?” about church, when our lives were changing very rapidly and very dramatically. The Pen Pals have become a very real way for UUC members to nurture and find new friendships with our siblings in faith, of all ages, and to hold one another in love through a profoundly difficult time.
If you are interested receiving a UUC Pen Pal, please contact Aria Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org.