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Paper and pen: A duo that never goes out of style

Wake up. Class on Zoom. Send snaps to your friends during class. FaceTime your grandma. Eat. Another Zoom class. Discussion post. Scroll on Instagram. Eat. Pour a drink and get on Google Hangout with your friends (probably still eating).

For many of us, this is what a typical quarantine day is like. It’s no question that we’ve clung to each other through technology. We’ve kept our sanity by keeping in touch. But for some people, FaceTime leaves them more out of touch — sound waves halted, forever lost into the air they were spoken into. Some people are tired of putting all of their energy into a screen. 

Junior Sarah Pankratz, a psychology major on the pre-med track, started writing letters to her friends during quarantine. She picked up the habit when she worked at a summer camp and couldn’t use her phone often. She wanted to communicate with her friends without always being on her phone. 

“Instead of picking up your phone and shooting the breeze, someone will think, ‘This person wanted to write to me,’” Pankratz said. “There is something special about a physical, handwritten letter.”

Pankratz's friends responded positively to her letter and started sending letters back. Her pen pals have been a huge encouragement to her. 

“People really need a sense of purpose and meaning,” Pankratz said. “Letters give me that.”

But she’s not the only Miamian who has taken advantage of the United States Postal Service. 

A few weeks ago, junior Camdyn Yoder, posted a poll on her Instagram story. She asked, “Does anyone want a friendship bracelet?” 

Thirty people said yes. 

Yoder, an education studies major, has been spending her time in Oxford. She started sending out friendship bracelets to fill her time, and many people sent her thank you’s in return. She continues to send letters to a friend in California.

“It started as a joke and turned into consistent letters,” Yoder said. 

Yoder has always loved giving gifts and found that mailing the bracelets made her very happy. After three weeks, she is still fulfilling bracelet requests in her spare time. 

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For some people, packages look a little bigger. Junior special education major Mary Culp wanted to do something unique with her quarantine experience. With libraries closed, she was craving a new read and thought others might be feeling the same way. Her book swapping turned into letters, just like Yoder’s bracelet exchange. 

Not only does Culp enjoy the excitement of receiving packages, she has learned from sending them as well.  

“I’m learning a lot about what it means to be intentional with the people I love,” Culp said. 

All three women have been saving the letters and packages they recieve. When they feel lonely or down, they look back on their letters filled with pictures and kind, encouraging words like “You can do it!” 

For them, letters are a constant in a time full of uncertainty. They are something to hold onto when interactions feel lost in the ether. 

“You can hold onto those letters for the rest of your life,” Pankratz said. “Looking back, it’s going to be really special.”

It’s likely that many of us could use a break from our monotonous daily routine. With days that seem to drag, why not invite something unexpected? Why not show people we care? 

“How can I show people I care about them?” Culp asked. “That’s all a pen pal is at the end of the day.”