Remember pen pals? They're coming back ... both the snail-mail and modern-day versions.
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TOMS One for One

Show of hands: Who knows someone who had — or has — a pen pal?

Has this quaint tradition gone by the wayside since technology gave us a way to avoid “treeware" and stamps, or is it still going strong?

It turns out there are people using the traditional methods as well as today's communication tools to talk to folks the world over. And it's beautiful.


Image of Upside Down Jenny via U.S. Post Office Department.

How did it work back in ye olden days?

If you were in school way back before the Internet existed (I know — unimaginable, right?!), one thing some kids would do is write actual, physical letters to pen pals across the world.

Sometimes a teacher would find the pals for the class to write to as a group, and sometimes the children themselves would figure out who to write to on their own, but they would send letters to that person and have them answered. Sometimes, these updates would be read to the class. Trinkets and photos and stickers would be exchanged.

It introduced children, their family, and their friends to cultures they'd only learned about in encyclopedias or from brief exposure on television.

A quote from one of the letters featured in the video below. Cute, huh? Image via PBS Parents.

Learning how to write things in other languages came with the territory. Finding out about cultural differences — and similarities — was a part of the experience, too. Family traditions, ways of dealing with life's challenges, even perspectives on the happenings of the world would be offered. Or maybe just the old classic, "How are you? I am fine."

Could it work now? Yes!

Sure, it's vastly easier to accomplish this kind of communication today via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails, video chats, Vines, and more. Letter writing and communicating with pen and paper might just be disappearing so rapidly that there will be few remnants of it soon — at least for them.

The Internet and all that it offers lets us actually sit down to dinner with pen pals in Tokyo, sing a song with guitar accompaniment by kids in Germany, tour the streets of Lagos, Nigeria, or participate in a Day of the Dead ceremony in Mexico. (Of course, safety is key when interacting with anyone on the Internet.)

Image by Ravindraboopathi/Wikimedia Commons.

But the video below talks about how using paper, pen, and stamps can get kids to slow down and take their time in both writing and waiting for a response.

It's absolutely the opposite of all forms of electronic communication in that it teaches patience, provides practice for creative writing, and cultivates kids' imaginations.

Here, courtesy of PBS Parents, are some kids who are learning very quickly the old-fashioned way what it means to be citizens of the world.

And a few jumping-off places for those who want to dive in right now, using your keyboard or phone: PenPalSchools.com and International PenFriends.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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