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.

President Biden/Twitter, Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter

In a year when the U.S. saw the largest protest movement in history in support of Black lives, when people of color have experienced disproportionate outcomes from the coronavirus pandemic, and when Black voters showed up in droves to flip two Senate seats in Georgia, Joe Biden entered the White House with a mandate to address the issue of racial equity in a meaningful way.

Not that it took any of those things to make racial issues in America real. White supremacy has undergirded laws, policies, and practices throughout our nation's history, and the ongoing impacts of that history are seen and felt widely by various racial and ethnic groups in America in various ways.

Today, President Biden spoke to these issues in straightforward language before signing four executive actions that aim to:

- promote fair housing policies to redress historical racial discrimination in federal housing and lending

- address criminal justice, starting by ending federal contracts with for-profit prisons

- strengthen nation-to-nation relationships with Native American tribes and Alaskan natives

- combat xenophobia against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, which has skyrocketed during the pandemic

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Gates Foundation

Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines.

After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricated everything.

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via TikTok

Menstrual taboos are as old as time and found across cultures. They've been used to separate women from men physically — menstrual huts are still a thing — and socially, by creating the perception that a natural bodily function is a sign of weakness.

Even in today's world women are deemed unfit for positions of power because some men actually believe they won't be able to handle stressful situations while mensurating.

"Menstruation is an opening for attack: a mark of shame, a sign of weakness, an argument to keep women out of positions of power,' Colin Schultz writes in Popular Science.

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