Letter writing is a lost art. However, with COVID-19, this art has found its way back. Over the summer, two Austin Peay community members decided to utilize letter writing to stay connected.
Reverend Katie Woodard, APSU’s Wesley Foundation Director, created a pen pal system as a way for students to stay in touch with each other. “I was in a moms bible study group at Madison Street UMC and the moms were talking about how their kids needed things to do during quarantine, and I thought that this is absolutely a need that our college students can address plus they LOVE kiddos! So, it was a win-win,” she said.
While she was not surprised by the overwhelming response, she was surprised by the relationships that resulted from the exchanges. “I think this will be a great ser[vice] to do every summer,” she added.
She also says one of the students wrote over 75 letters during the summer. That student was senior Victoria Bolkom. “It was just kind of a way to get involved with people in Clarksville and be able to have that sense of community when we are apart and not able to physically say hello. I think there’s a real beauty in letter writing,” Bolkom said.
“It is definitely a calling for her through the pandemic,” Woodard agreed.
Austin Peay’s resident mad scientist and lab manager for the APSU Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy, Bryan Gaither also got in on this unexpected craze. He decided to write telegrams as a way to connect during COVID.
“It was early after the initial shutdown, but I was in a virtual meeting with several friends and collogues. The stress and tension was almost palpable through the screen,” he said.
“I live a ridiculous life, so when I make a plan to cheer up a friend, it involves research, the procurement of internet domain names, and sometimes a conversation with the fire department. One night I went deep down a rabbit hole on the internet only to discovered that the original Western Union Telex network still existed, and that International Telegram took over the network in roughly 2006. I couldn’t help myself, I just had to send a telegram. I paid extra for guaranteed 24 hour delivery,” he continued.
Both Woodard and Gaither agree this is definitely something that should continue far beyond COVID and quarantine.
“I think letter writing is a great way to bridge the gap between generations. Kids aren’t on social media and college students should probably not be talking to them on social media but letter writing is a great way to encourage each other,” Woodard said.
“Most absolutely [continuing this], two are in the mail now. I have a select few groups of friends that I still exchange handwritten, cursive notes with. The joy of getting a handwritten letter in the mail, especially at this time of social distancing, is amazing. I am not a very social person; I don’t go out to social events very often. But I miss our CoSTEM coffees more than I thought I would. Just the interaction with everyone. It’s so important right now for people to find fun, comical ways to bring joy to people’s lives because, not only does it suck now, but we’re in this for a while. Finding new ways to reach out to people. Like how awesome is it to receive a telegram? It’s so confusing, then so funny when you open it,” Gaither said.