School systems across the nation scramble to find virtual learning solutions as the Coronavirus spreads, and those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities become more isolated as their regular family visits are canceled. The pandemic separates us, but letters can span the distance, both easing isolation and unfolding new learning experiences. Connecting students to elder Rotarians through handwritten letters provides students with new opportunities to expand their creative writing skills, while also learning a little bit of history from their pen-pals.
Rotarians share history through personal narratives, but also share Rotary values, inspiring a new generation of leaders committed to “service above self”.
The educational aspect of letters is appealing for families and teachers looking for constructive activities to replace traditional classroom lessons, but letters have multiple superpowers. A recent CBS special underlined the importance of “caring letters” on depression and suicide prevention. As we find ways to navigate a new reality of greater seclusion, the power of letters travels across distance and difference, and between hearts and minds.
Jennifer Richmond started connecting people through letters several years ago in response to what she saw as an ideological crisis of political polarization sweeping the nation. Today the COVID-19 virus is taking her letter writing mission in a different direction as people shelter-in-place, often quarantined from friends, family and even neighbors. As Richmond says in her recent TEDx talk, “you can hold onto the thoughts in handwritten letters, physically touch them, and often they become memories that we reimagine and pass down the family tree.” The touch of a letter may be exactly what we need to weather this crisis and expand the Rotarian vision of community.
Richmond has made letter writing easy for those of all ages who are in search of connection. On the Truth In Between website, you can fill out a short questionnaire to be matched with a new pen-pal.
For larger Student-Rotary group connections, please contact Jennifer directly.
Jennifer Richmond
PO Box 4278
Austin, TX 78765