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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.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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